Tour – Axum, Gheralta, Mariam Wukro and Mekelle
Duration – 6 nights and 6 days
Transportation – Drive and Flight
Accommodation – 1*, 2* and 3* hotels and best lodge
Tour Code: ATT-CH-0044
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.
- Tembein, housed rock churches in the mountains hidden for centuries. The churches have paintings and in a breathtaking landscape.
- Adigrat, famous for its catholic cathedral and has paintings in its glasses.
- Yeha, the pre-Axumite palace known for its oldest Pre-Christian temple in the Sub-Saharan Africa
- Axum, an ancient historic and archaeological site with steles, old palaces, tombs and the Ark of the Covenant and the Zion church.
- 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 aggressors.
- Axum, the capita of the Axumite empire known for its palaces, steles, tombs, Ark of the Covenant, Saint Merry church and others.
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. After our visit we will take a scenic flight to Addis Ababa and end of service.
DAY 2 – DRIVE TEMBEIN
After a morning breakfast, drive to Tembein and 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.
Afternoon visit the lifestyles of the community in one of the household around Tembein area including irrigation activities.
DAY 3 – DRIVE GEHRALTA
After a morning breakfast, drive to Gebrein Wukien: is found 17km north west of Abyi-Addi and some across the field and further 10-min ascent of the mountain side .It is architecturally important church which is free, on all sides, from the mother rock. Its pillars and the beams connecting them are beautiful. According to Ruth Plant, the author of The Architecture of Tigrai, “The church is undoubtedly the most remarkable church that I saw in Tembien”.
Later, drive to Gheralta and en route visit Abune Gebre Michael. The church is situated south of Abune Yamata (Guh), about 15 km from Megab. Considered one of the best and finest churches in Gheralta, this church’s cruciform plan is hewn beautifully into a dome like rock. Its features good frescoes and carefully carved columns, pillars, cupolas and arches. The interior part of the church is abundantly decorated with marvelous paintings and murals are worth visiting.
DAY 4 – DRIVE ADIGRAT
After a relaxed morning breakfast, drive to the direction of Teka Tesfay churches and 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. Later for the mix, 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.
Finally, after a lunch break in Adigrat and visit one of the oldest Catholic Church in the city. The cathedral is one of its kind and known for its glass paintings in the windows and the history is quite interesting and brings another history of Christianity history through the introduction of Catholicism.
DAY 5 – DRIVE AXUM
After a morning breakfast, proceed to Debre Damo. Damo monastery is situated on an isolated mountain in northern part of Tigray. It is unique compared with most Ethiopian monasteries. Debre Damo was built, in the sixth century AD, with curved wood panels, painted ceilings and walls dedicated to the legend of Saint (Abune) Aregawi. The history of Debre Damo is centred on the “Nine Saints” who came to Ethiopia from Syria to spread Christianity in the Tigray region. One of them was Saint Aregawi who settled on the mountain of Debre Damo. Debre Damo is magnificent in terms of its location and extensive collection of priceless manuscripts that have remained intact to today. It has become a prominent monastic and educational centre for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Debre Damo is only accessible by climbing up by a rope, which is made of “plaited leather”, lowered from the cliffs, which visitors tie around their waist and are then pulled up by a monk at the top of the cliffs. It is only accessible to men and male animals. Women and even female animals are forbidden to set a foot into the monastery, and must remain under the cliffs and pray from there.
Later, drive to the direction of Axum and en route 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. Finally before your arrival in Axum, stop in Adwa to discuss the Adwa Mountains where the Battle of Adwa(1896) took place and considered as the land of the continent, Africa.
DAY 6 – AXUM CITY TOUR
After an early morning breakfast, visit Axum, recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980, Axum is a testament to the rich and glorious past of the mighty Kingdom of Axum (2nd C. BC-700 A.D.). This morning the visit will start with the famous Stelae field with its Axumite stelae in various sizes and shapes. The archaeological museum is nearby and it offers an opportunity to bring context to relics on view today.
In the afternoon, you will visit the Kaleb and Gebremeskel tombs, dating to the 6th century A.D and on the way to town, the Ezana inscription (Ethiopia’s Rosetta stone) is worth visiting. Tradition has it that the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ethiopia in the 10th century BC by Menelik I and later Ethiopian kings and emperors would proclaim their legitimacy to rule by their lineage to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Through the day we will discuss the development of Christianity in Ethiopia and its relation to the Ark, and the story of Queen of Sheba too.