Mekelle, Atsbi, Al Nejashi and Gheralta 1

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Duration – 4 nights and 4 days

Transportation – Drive and Flight

Accommodation – 1*, 2* and 3* hotels and best lodge

Tour Code: ATT-CH-0037

 

Trip Highlight

This is a Four 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, religious and event center of Tigrai
  • Gheralta Range, known for the Rock-Hewn Churches and breathtaking landscape
  • Atsbi, undiscovered churches found the mountains with impressive architecture and paintings.
  • Al Nejashi, first mosque in Africa if not in the world out side the Middle East and called the Fist Hijra destination.
  • Adi Akawih, Pre-Axumite archaeological site recently discovered around Wukro.

 

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 DejatchAbraha 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 Tigrain 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.

 

DAY 2 – DRIVE WUKRO VIA ATSBI

After a morning breakfast, drive to the direction of Atsbi and visit Mikael Imba which is of similar design as Abraha Atsbeha and Wukro Cherkos. With an interior area of 140 square meters, the church is perhaps the most spacious of all the rock churches in Tigrai. The top of the pillars are graced with stepped capitals, the ceiling is meticulously decorated with intricate patterns. Incised in relief, a large Greek cross adorns the ceiling.  In terms of decoration and finishing, Mikael Imba is “an artistically finished church.”

Later after a lunch break in Atsbi, visit Mikael Debre Selam is undoubtedly one of the finest churches in its architectural design. It is a church within a cave. The central door leads in to the anteroom with three huge built columns, a beautiful freestanding arch and striking Aksumite “Sandwich Style” constructions (a layer of wood then a layer of stone, painted alternating in black and white). The woodwork of the door and window shutters is exquisitely decorated in geometrical patterns including swastika-like symbols. Especially the middle window shutter is decorated with a 15th century wooden painting of the Virgin Mary and the Child. The ends of the protruding part of the wooden beams are round in shape and their presence adds beauty to the church. It is also known for its wealth of paintings, which can be seen on the walls and arches of the sanctuary, if one asks the priests specifically for it (bring a torch!). The art influence, according to Pearce, is Byzantine. Finally, drive to Wukro for your overnight. If time permits, visit the archaeological museum visit the newly well established archaeological museum of Wukro. This museum has interesting collections of Pre-Axumite Sabean artifacts from Adi Akawih and other sites. Most of the collections. Interestingly, 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.

DAY 3 – DRIVE GHERALTA VIA AL NEJASHI

After a relaxed morning breakfast, drive to the direction of Nejashi town and visit Al Nejashi Mosque which is 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 bombs.

 

Later, visit Medhane Alem Adi Kesho church and is one of Tigrai’s oldest and finest rock-hewn churches estimated to date from the 10th or early 11th century. An unusual feature is the beautifully decorated narthex connecting the northern and southern ends of the church. Two doors lead to the interior of the church where the ceiling is supported by six huge square pillars. The ceiling is decorated with reliefs and geometrical patterns. Because of its immense height and massive pillars, this church resembles a cathedral. There are engravings on the walls and a croix patêe on the right side of the back wall. Finally, drive to Hawzein and en route stop at farmer’s house for a coffee ceremony. Coffee ceremony is authentic in farmer’s private house and guests will get an opportunity in discussing the socio-economic of the community.

 

 

DAY 4 – DRIVE MEKELLE

 

After a morning breakfast, drive to visit Debre Tsion. It is about 40 minutes’ walk from the escarpment. It is a monastic cliff church carved in to a rusty sandstone face. It has an impressive and unusually symbolic exterior. The interior of the church is lovely decorated. The back walls of the holy of holies, the domes and wall panels are abundantly decorated with fine painting of saints and Apostles. Especially the dome is beautifully adorned with patterns. Because of the simplicity of the lines and colors, the paintings are estimated to be of the 15th century although the church officials prefer to date it, in the 14th century. A 15th century unique circular ceremonial fan (one meter in diameter) with wooden framework makes the visit to this church special. Each of its 34 panels is finely painted with figures of Apostles. Its walls are decorated with many geometrical designs and carvings in relief depicting Angels and Saints. It is indeed a manifestation of the great stone workmanship that was common in the whole of Tigrai both at that time and before.

Later, drive to the direction of Wukro and en route visit Abreha we Atsbeha. This church was believed to be built in the 4th century by two royal brothers, Abreha Atsbeha, who were responsible for converting Axumite Empire 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.

Finally, if time permits 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. Also visit the Archaeological Museum of Wukro.