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HARAR

Harar, The Fortified Historic Town is an eastern city in Ethiopia, and the capital of the modern Harari ethno-political division of Ethiopia. The city is located on a hilltop, in the eastern extension of the Ethiopian highlands about five hundred kilometers from Addis Ababa with an elevation of 1885 meters. For centuries, Harar has been a major commercial centre, linked by the trade routes with the rest of Ethiopia, the entire Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and, through its ports, the outside world.

Harar Jugol has been included in the World Heritage List in 2006 by UNESCO in recognition of its cultural heritage. According to UNESCO, it is “considered the fourth holy city of Islam” with 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century, and 102 shrines.

Harar was founded between the 7th and the 11th century and emerged as the center of Islamic culture and religion in the Horn of Africa. From Harar, Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi, also known as “Gragn the Left-handed,” launched a war of conquest in the sixteenth century that extended its territory and even threatened the existence of the Christian Ethiopian empire. His successor, Emir Nur ibn Mujahid, encircled the city with a wall, 4 meters high and with five gates. This wall, called “JEGOL”, is still intact, and is a symbol of the town to the inhabitants.

DEBRE DAMO

The ancient monasteries of Debre-Damo is considered to be one of the oldest monastery in the country. Unlike other monasteries and churches, Debre-Damo is built on the of the Amba. The Amba of Debre-Damo has half square kilo meter in area and it altitude rises to 3000m above sea level. In the 16th century, emperor Lebne Dengel took a refuge on the Amba during the wars of Ahmed Gragn. Currently the monastery hosts more than 300 monks and deacons. The style of construction is depicting from the earliest Axumite architecture. The accessible to the Monastery is only by way of rope and open only for men.

YEHA

Yeha, found at a distance about 25km from Northeast of modern town of Adwa and 55km east of Axum, it is believed to be Ethiopia’s first capital .the first settlers of this area ,the sabeans , were the founders of Axumite kingdom .Queen Makeda of Sabaea (Sheba) belongs to this dynasty who ruled Ethiopia and Yemen for 31years.

AXUM

Axum is one of the most important archeological sites of Ethiopia. It is well known for its ruins of the palace of the legendary Queen of Sheba who reigned about 1000 B.C. The greatest mystery of all, however, is that the son of the Queen of Sheba, Menelik I, first king from the Solomonic Dynasty brought with him the Arc of the covenant is believed still to be kept in the church of St. Mary Zion of Axum erected on the original location of the oldest church in Ethiopia. The Axumite kings conversion to Christianity in the 4th century makes Ethiopia, after Armenia and Georgia, the third oldest Christian county. The site of the country’s most ancient city, shields and shelters a great number of priceless relic. Other ancient sites are the 2000 years old stele (some are even much older), which are made from single blocks of granite carved to represent multi-storey houses.

LALIBELA

LALIBELA, Set at 2,600 m above sea level in the rugged mountains in the northern end of Wollo, is the most exciting attraction of the country, from where the Zagwe Dynasty ruled the country for more than 2 centuries. Lalibella formerly known as Roha, the town of Lalibela bears the name of its most famous king “Lalibela” (1181 – 1221A.D). There are eleven rock hewn monolithic churches, believed to have been built by king Lalibela, which are architecturally unique buildings, finely carved, some decorated with beautiful paintings. There is nothing that could be more attractive than the fascinating and impressive churches with their ancient architecture and carving. The churches of Lalibela are the eighth wonders of the world.

GONDAR

GONDAR , surrounded by the lower hills of the southern semien mountains, lies at 2,200m above sea level. “The city of the castles” is one of Ethiopia’s most fascinating cities, founded by Emperor Fasilidas in 1635 A.D. At this time, Gondar became the royal capital city of the country. In subsequent years, several castles were built, each unique in size and architecture. Gondar is a city rich in fabulous history and ancient monuments. For many centuries it was the center of fine arts, music, science, religion, commerce and administration. The most interesting church of Gondar is “Debre Berehan Selassie “Light of Mount trinity). This Trinity church is built in a rectangular shape, its ceilings are decorated with beautiful winged angles and its walls with impressive scenes depicting from biblical events.

BIHAR DAR

BIHAR DAR: is located on the southern shores of lake Tana from where excursions by boat can be made to the lake’s island and peninsulas as well as to the “Tissisat Falls.” (the most spectacular water falls of the country). The Blue Nile River draws its strength from the large reservoir, Lake Tana, set at 1,830m above sea level. The lake includes more than 30 islands and peninsulas, most of which hold ancient monasteries, decorated with wonderful wall paintings from the 12th to the 20th centaury. Among its multitude of monasteries, some can only be visited by men.

Wukro Cherqos

Directly a the edge of the small town of Wuqro (47 Kms from Mekele), on a knoll of red rock, is the rock- cut church of Wuqro Cherqos.The church is supposed to have been constructed by the 4 C by the two kings Abreha and Asbeha. It is one of the first of the rock churches of Tigray. The upper part of the wool and the ceilings were painted, but now much destroyed. Nevertheless, a good impression of the decoration can be gained. A number of scenes can be distinguished: cherubim and angles, the Abune Samuel, the Nine Saints, St. Qirqos. The priests tell the story that the church was burnet by Gudit, the distinctive queen who is supposed also to have toppled the Axum stelae.

Abraha wa Atsbeha

The wonderful church of Abreha wa Atsebha is situated 15 kms.west of Wuqro. A newly built gravel road leads to within a few meters of the church and beyond to Hawzien via Degum.

The church is one of the best and largest of the rock churches of Tigray, dedicated to the famous kings of Axum, the brothers Abreha and Atsebha. They are known by that name to history, but they are said in Ethiopian legends to be kings who adopted Christianity in the 4th century. The historical king of Axum who did adopt Christianity around that time was king Ezana . His name is equally unknown in Ethiopian legendary accounts.

The church is cut into the red rock overlooking a valley, and stands out with its white painted façade sheltering two tall blue doors under arches. The church is decorated with splendid post-17th century mural paintings depicting Biblical scenes and saints. It also has several valuable treasures, the most important being the prayer cross which according to churchy officials, belonged to Frumentius- the first Bishop of Ethiopia whose ecclesiastical name was Abba Salama (Father of peace).

THE ROCK HEWN CHURCHES OF TIGRAY

Over 125 rock hewn churches are recorded with Tigray-alone. These churches date from 4th-15th century. Most of them are visited around the Gera-Alta chained mountains. Others are found in eastern and southern Tigray. Abreha-We-Atsbeha, Wukro Chercko churches are hewn in the 4th century. There are some pre Christian period hewn templates too. Special programs can be arranged to visit the Tigray Rock Churches either on surface or camping even up to 2-3 weeks. Otherwise a two or three day’s addition to the classical route itineraries can be nice to pay a visit of these churches.

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