Duration – 5 nights and 6 days
Transportation – Drive and Flight
Accommodation – 3* hotels and best lodge
This is a Six days Cultural and Historic Tigrai tour with-in Tigrai which passes through the scenic highlands of Tigrai, visiting the historic, archaeological, political, cultural and religious destinations of Tigrai . The trip covers mainly the following attraction sites:
- Mekelle, the political, Socio-Economic, religous and event center of Tigrai
- Gheralta Range, known for the Rock-Hewn Churches and breathtaking landscape
- Al Nejashi, the oldest Mosque in the Sub-Saharan Africa and is the living witness of the peaceful co-existance of Ethiopians despite of their religion differences.
- Yeha, the pre-Axumite palace known for its oldest Pre-Chritain temple in the Sub-Sharan Africa
- Axum, an anceint historic and archaeological site with stalaes, tombs and churches
- Adwa Mountains, called the Pride of Africa, a historic landmark where the Battle of Adwa took place with the subsequent Ethiopian victory over the Italian aggresors.
- Tembein, housed the hidden churches inside the mountains
- Hagere Selam, ones TPLF/EPRDF leadership office.
DAY 1 – MEKELLE CITY TOUR
After a relaxed morning breakfast, take a city tour of Mekelle, founded by Emperor Yohannes IV as his capital, after he relocated his power base from Debra Berhane, to Mekele in 1881. Mekele is also the capital city of the Tigray National Regional State. Late this afternoon we will take a Mekelle City Tour. We will view to the impressive Dejatch Abraha Castle built in the heart of the city around 1906. Today the castle is a hotel. We will also stop to visit the Hawelti (Monument of the Martyrs) erected to dignify the valiant fighters who sacrificed themselves to emancipate their people from the dictatorial military regime (1974-1991). The artistic tower, spiraling more than 100 feet above the ground and mounted by a large ball, is visible through much of Mekele. This is the centerpiece of the large war memorial. The memorial is modern and engrossing. As you enter, on each side, there are larger than life figures representing the victims and victors of the war.
Appropriately black and stick like, the figures include mothers and children trekking out from the famine, several of them not making it. With them are the hardy Tigrayan fighters, machine guns over their backs and trusty donkeys in tow. These peasant fighters overcame the Soviet backed might of the Derg military regime.
Later after a lunch break, we will visit historical Atse Yohannes IV Palace, which is named after the famous King who ruled Ethiopia from 1872 to 1889. Emperor Yohannes chose Mekele as the seat of his government and built his graceful palace, still intact, in the 1870s. The palace now serves as a museum and is highlighted by the Emperor’s throne, the royal bed, his ceremonial dress, rifles, and many other valuable historical collections. The fantastic throne of Atse Yohannnes IV was made by the Italian engineer Giacomo Nareri in 1874 and it is the eye catching centerpiece of the museum. After our visit we will take a scenic flight to Addis Ababa and end of service.
DAY 2 – DRIVE GHERALTA
After a morning breakfast, drive to Hawzein. En route, you will visit the newly excavated pre-Axumite site of Adi Akawih. The site is situated near the town of Wukro. This site has ancient objects such as a statute of seated women and at its base is an altar with Sabean inscription and a partially inscribed podium. According to a translation by Prof. Nobert Nebes, the inscriptions mention the ancient Sabean-Ethiopian kingdom of D’m’t, the god Almoqah, and for the first time the well-known pre-Axumite temple, ‘Yeha’. On the basis of these same inscriptions, the objects are dated to 7th -6th century B.C. The Almoqah temple of Yeha is much larger than the Almoqah temple of Adi Akaweh, but a good comparable one is the Almoqah temple in Melazo near Axum. After a tea break in Wukro, visit the archaeological Wukro Museum that housed archaeological materials collected from the area around Wukro and Hawzein.
Later, drive to visit Abreha we Atsbeha. This church was built in the 4th century by two royal brothers, Abreha and Atsbeha (known in the west as kings, Ezana and Saizana), who were responsible for converting Ethiopia to Christianity. The church is large and cruciform in shape, with interesting architectural features such as cruciform pillars and stepped capitals. There are also well preserved 17th century paintings depicting saints and biblical scenes. The church contains many valuable masterpieces including a beautifully decorated prayer cross, said to have belonged to Frumentius, the first Bishop of Ethiopia, whose ecclesiastical name was Abba Selama, meaning the father of peace.
The final stop will be Abune Yemata, one of the best known of the “Rock Churches“ in the Gheralta Range with colorful paintings of the new and old testament. Climbing up to the church takes 40 minutes and the view is breathtaking. The church is dated to the late Axumite period around 7th – 8th century AD and the ceiling is decorated with painted domes of saints. Ascending and descending is an adventure by itself. Finally, drive to Hawzein for your overnight. Hawzien has a 3,000 year history. It was originally an old trading centre but today the area is exclusively agricultural. Many ruins in the area still bear testimony to the day in 1988 when the dictator Mengistu wanted to punish rebel fighters and 2,500 people died under an air attack which dropped napalm bombs.
DAY 3 – DRIVE AXUM
After a morning breakfast, drive to the direction of Axum and en route visit Medhane Alem (Saviour of the world). The church can be reached through a combination of asphalt and dirt roads through Freweyni via Hawzein. To access the church you climb a slope of exposed sandstone. It is covered with potholes which local people believe to be the hoof prints of St. George’s horse. This church is one of Tigrai’s oldest and finest rock-hewn churches. Its exterior and interior walls are roughly hewn, which only makes the elaborately carved coffered ceiling much more special. It is quite possibly the oldest rock-hewn church in Tigrai, or anywhere in Ethiopia.
After a tea break at old and historic Al Nejashi twon, visit Al Negashi and is known as the earliest Muslim settlement in Africa; a seventh-century cemetery has been excavated inside the village boundaries. The Futuh al-Habasha records Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi visited the tomb of Ashama ibn Abjar in Negash during his invasion of the province of Tigray (around 1537). Negash is also known for the Negash Amedin Mesgid mosque. Later, drive to Hawzein. Hawzien has a 3,000 year history. It was originally an old trading centre but today the area is exclusively agricultural. Many ruins in the area still bear testimony to the day in 1988 when the dictator Mengistu wanted to punish rebel fighters and 2,500 people died under an air attack which dropped napalm
Finally, visit Yeha. This city was founded at least 2,800 years ago and served as the capital of a pre-Axumite empire.
The well-preserved stone temple was built 2,500 years ago. It also served as a center of a monastic Christian community in the early 6th century.
A modern church built next to the temple ruins contains some of the ancient temple stones and its treasury contains illuminated manuscripts and crowns.
DAY 4 – AXUM (UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE) CITY TOUR
Morning drive to Axum, the ancient capital of Ethiopia, Founded three centuries before the birth of Christ, Axum was a crucial destination between Africa and Asia for almost a thousand years. Your city tour begins with a visit of the 17th century Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion, home of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. The church was built on the foundations of a 4th century temple where the Ark of the Covenant is reputed to have been stored. See the modern St. Mary’s of Zion cathedral, built by Emperor Haileselassie in the 1960s, and explore the museum under the church, which houses some priceless Ethiopian relics. In the afternoon, explore the ‘Axum Stelae Field,’ a pasture of more than 120 carved monoliths that date from pre-Christian times and have been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See the ancient residence of the legendary Queen of Sheba, various 5th century palace ruins, and the controversial Obelisk of Axum, stolen by Italian forces in 1937 and only recently returned. Today our tour will be accompanied with visit to a family house in the old town of Axum and the group will be able to observe and experience their daily life activities. Coffee ceremony will be organized with the family as well.
DAY 5 – DRIVE TEMBEIN
This morning we will begin our drive from Axum to Tembein. En route, we will stop in Adwa. For the Ethiopians, the town of Adwa holds huge significance. It was in the hills surrounding Adwa that the Ethiopians inflicted the biggest defeat ever on a colonial army in Africa and saved Ethiopia from colonization. Just east of Adwa we will visit the Monastery of Abba Garima, which is said to have been founded by one of the nine saints in the 6th century. The monastery is known for its collection of religious artifacts including three illuminated gospels from the 10th century.
Finally, visit Abba Yohani Monastery. Tigrai northern Ethiopia is one of the over 200 rock hewn churches found throughout the state. The rock hewn churches and monasteries were built around 1800 to 1600 years ago.
Abba Yohani monastery was built in the fourth century by Abune Aron Ze Gamche also some work has been done with the help of Emperor Gebremeskel of Axum. Emperor Gebremeskel is the son of the famous Axumite King of Kings Emperor Kaleb. Through your drive visit the lifestyles of the community in one of the household including irrigation activities.
DAY 6 – DRIVE MEKELLE AND END OF SERVICE
This morning after a hearty breakfast, we drive to Hagere Selam. En route we will visit the cave office of TPLF/EPRDF leadership. The cave office will be accessed through a walk and hike of the breathtaking landscapes passing traditional vernacular architectures. Here, you will discuss about TPLF and its achievemnts.
Finally, drive to Mekelle and on arrival, have a breifing summary of the trip and get feed backs. End of Service.