Axum is the site of Ethiopia's oldest city, and was once the centre of the mighty Axumite Empire. This empire flourished in the area between the 1st and 8th Centuries CE, and by the 5th Century controlled much of present-day Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia!
The town retains some impressive obelisks from the Axumite era carved from single blocks of granite - the tallest still standing is 23 metres high and was probably transported by elephants from a nearby quarry. The scale of the monuments in this stelae field are testament to the enormous importance that the ancient kingdom of Axum once enjoyed. Close to the town are the extensive ruins of a palace that is said to have belonged to the biblical figure of the Queen of Sheba, who was said to have travelled to Jerusalem to test the wisdom of King Solomon.
Also in the town are a complex of several ancient churches - the most famous of these is a small unimposing building known as the Church of St. Mary of Zion, which is rumoured by devout Coptic Christians to house the original Ark of the Covenant (the legendary box that contained the original Ten Commandments), although apparently only one appointed guardian is ever allowed to see it!