• Axum is located in the northern region of Ethiopia.
  • This over 2,500 year old city is reported to have been the capital city of the legendary Queen of Sheba. As archaeological expeditions take place, more artifacts are being discovered that attest to the high levels of engineering and architectural achievements of the Ethiopian empire. Obelisks built over 2,000 years ago still stand in the city, as well as the recently unearthed ruins of a complex and sophisticated palace that are claimed in legend to be that of the Queen of Sheba.
  • The thriving commerce of this empire could be attributed to the minting of its own currency and establishment of a written language, Geez.
  • When Christianity became the state religion in 350 A.D., Axum rose as one of the earliest holy cities in Ethiopia.


  • The history of Axum dates back from about 2nd to 1st century BC
  • The early city was located on the trade route between India, Arabia and Africa – the seat of a large empire that stretched from the Nile River in the west to southern Arabia
  • It became one of the earliest holy cities in Ethiopia when Christianity became the state religion in 350 AD.
  • The same year, the Saint Mary of Zion (Orthodox Church of Ethiopia) was the first church to be built. This church is reputed to house the Ark of the Covenant in its vault.
  •  Palace ruins outside of town are named for  the Queen of Sheba (1000 BC) who lived in the area of Axum
  • The Axumite Empire (100 BC to 1,100 AD) was one of the most powerful empires of the day. A highly advanced civilization, the Axumites developed writing and minted gold coins to carry out their maritime commerce with the Roman Empire, Persia, India, and China.


  • Axum is a popular destination because of its ancient history and its artifacts. It plays a key role in the major industries in Northern Ethiopia – tourism and agriculture.
  • In addition to the rumored original Ark of the Convent, the St. Mary of Zion Church houses an impressive collection of bibles, crosses and crowns of early rulers.
  • The city is equally famous for its tall stelai (obelisks) located in a historic portion of the city. Among the greatest human architectural and engineering marvels, these upright stone works are carved from single granite blocks – many of the original are no longer standing, however, of the remaining standing stelai, the tallest is about  85 feet high.After the recent repatriation of on of the obelisks from Rome, having been taken there by Mussolini’s troups during WWII, Axum now has two standing obelisks.  Most impressive is that tools and evidence have been found that the massive stelai were constructed and transported from 5 km in distance.
  • An estimated seventy-five percent of the people in Axum are members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
  • Significiant religious celebrations are the T’imk’et Festival in early January, and Festival of Maryam Zion in early November

Modern Day

  • Due to their historical value, UNESCO added Axum’s archaeological wonders to its list of World Heritage Sites in 1980
  • In 2005, the country of Italy diplomatically returned a 24m tall, 1,700 year old obelisk to Ethiopia after soldiers from WWI had taken the engineering marvel back to Rome. As a symbol of national identity, the return of the obelisk was met with a joyous and large public celebration. In July 2008, the obelisk was fully erected and re-installed in the city of Axum.