Mariam Tsion Axum (Annual Celebration NOV.30/(Dec.01 on Leap Years)

Date: December 1, 2020

Location: Axum, Tigrai

Mariam Tsion Axum: To commemorate the finding of our lady Zion (Mariam Tsion) church in Axum, probably the first christian church in sub-Saharan Africa. Up to 100,000 pilgrims take part.
November 23: Arrive Addis Ababa about 0730 and transfer to the Hilton Hotel. Rest up until lunch time, after which we will begin the city tour. We first drive north up to MountEntoto. In 1881 Emperor Menelik II made his permanent camp there, after remains of an old town (believed to have been the capital of 16th century monarch LebnaDengel) were discovered, which Menelik took as a divine and auspicious sign. Addis Ababa at between 2300 – 2500 meters is the third highest capital in the world and Entoto is several hundred meters higher – as we drive up the hill there is an appreciable drop in temperature and the air is filled with the scent of the Eucalyptus trees which line the road.

From the top, there is a panoramic view of the capital and surrounding countryside. Entoto is an important watershed; to the north, water flows to the Blue Nile and on to the Mediterranean, to the south to the Awash River and east to Djibouti. Your guide will point out the important landmarks of the city.

Entoto was soon abandoned as a site for the capital – it was cold, difficult to provision and there was a shortage of wood. Empress Taytu was said to have led the move down to the plain of Finfine and the hot springs at Filwuha in 1889, and to have named the new capital Addis Ababa, or New Flower. However, two important structures remain within the old imperial compound on Entoto, the churches of Mariam and the Archangel Raguel. It was in the church of Mariam that Menelik was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia in 1889, and in the small museum in the compound there are various clothes, court and household implements and weapons dating from the period. The church of Raguel is unusual in that it is octagonal, rather than round. There is a first story balustrade around which Menelik liked to stroll.

Leaving the churches we descend to Addis Ababa, stopping off at the NationalArchaeologicalMuseum. Here visitors can see exhibits ranging from the 3.5 million-year-old bones of Lucy, from the Axumite and Gondarene periods through to the period of the monarchs Tewodros and Menelik II.

We now return to our hotel. After the long flight and with an early start the next day, visitors will probably feel like taking an early night. Dinner in hotel o/n Jupiter Hotel.

November 24 :- Early transfer to the airport for the one hour flight (0710-0810) to Bahir Dar, an attractive town, well laid out with tree lined avenues and with the blue of the lake in the background.

On arrival we check into Tana or Kuriftu resort hotel situated on the shores of Lake Tana. 68 km wide and 73 km long, Tana is Ethiopia’s largest lake and is dotted with islands, on many of which are found churches and monasteries.

We can relax for a few hours, either in the hotel grounds or take a walk along the lake shore, before taking an early lunch in the hotel and then leaving by boat for the Zeghie Peninsula, which is known for its 14th century, round, grass roofed churches and their magnificent wall murals. We visit two churches, Betra Mariam and UraKidaneMehret, walking through dense forest with lots of bird life, before returning by boat to our hotel.

Bahir Dar has several clubs and bars where visitors can see traditional and modern Ethiopian music and dancing, and is also quite safe for wandering around at night. o/n Tana or Kuriftu resort hotel.
November 25:- We set off north to Gondar, a distance of about 170 km, after breakfast.
On arrival, we check into the Goha or Jacaranda Hotel, and start our city tour after lunch. Both Hotels are situated on a hill side with a panoramic view of the town and its monuments, and with great sunsets from the terrace. Occasionally visitors will see the giant Lammergeyer, with its 3 metre wing span, soaring on the air currents by the hotel.
Gondar was the imperial capital from the 17th to mid 19th centuries, and the Royal Enclosure or FasilGibbi, provides visitors with a idea of what it must have been like in its hey day. Within the compound are the castles of various Gondarene emperors – extensive renovation has been and is still being carried out – along with a banqueting hall, stables and churches. About 2 km from the town centre is the bath of King Fasilides, where at Timkat (Ethiopian Epiphany) a nearby river is diverted to fill an area the size of a small swimming pool. Worshippers plunge into the cold water in a re-enactment of the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan.

Although most of Gondar’s churches were destroyed during the Mahdist invasion from Sudan in the 1880s, one very fine example, DebreBerhan Selassie, was saved, according to the legend, by a swarm of bees which routed the invaders. The walls and ceiling are completely covered with murals – the angels’ faces on the ceiling have become a common motif in Ethiopian design.

A good place to end your tour of Gondar is the ruined palace of Queen Mentowab, and the church of Qusquam Mariam, situated on a hill just outside town.

Gondar is a great place for experiencing the Ethiopian tradition of azmarimusic, where a couple of wandering minstrels, a girl with a strident voice clapping in time to the music accompanied by a man playing a single stringed violin or masinqo, entertain their listeners with songs about life, the world and their audience. Currently the best place is the Belageru. o/n Goha Jacaranda Hotel.

November 26:- Drive to the Simien Mountains National Park for your day trip.
In Debark we pay the park entrance fees and pick up the game scout.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since the late 1960s, the Simien Mountains National Park presents perhaps the most dramatic scenery in Africa – great volcanic plugs, formed some 40 million years ago and eroded over the aeons into fantastic crags, pinnacles and flat topped mountains, “the chess pieces of the Gods”, as one writer described them, tower over precipitous gorges, river valleys and plains stretching all the way to Eritrea. There are many peaks over 4000 metres, and RasDashen at 4620 metres is the highest in the country and the fourth highest in Africa.

In the Simiens visitors can see the endemic Gelada or bleeding heart baboon, the Walia Ibex, the Simien Wolf (the rarest canid in the world) and rock hyrax, and endemic birds such as the Thick billed Raven, Black headed Siskin, White Collared Pigeon, Wattled Ibis, White billed Starling, Spot breasted Plover and White backed Black Tit. Cruising Lammergeyers are often seen.

The park is also famous for its Afro-Alpine flora, meadows and grasslands punctuated by Giant Lobelia and flowering Red Hot Pokers. Then in late afternoon drive back to Gondar o/n Goha or Jacaranda hotel.

November 27:- Transfer to the airport for the flight to Lalibela (0910-0940).

At the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries King Lalibela of the Zaghwe dynasty built a series of rock hewn churches – the New Jerusalem as he called it – now rightly acknowledged to be one of the wonders of the world. There are 11 churches in the town named after him, with others in the surrounding countryside. All are still in use today. (The churches are divided into two groups, the division being the River Yordanos or River Jordan.)

It is estimated that the churches took 25 years to construct – for the Kingdom based on Roha (later renamed Lalibela) to have kept a large work force engaged in economically unproductive labour for such a long period means that it disposed of a large economic surplus and was very wealthy. The area then was clearly fertile and agriculturally productive, whereas now deforestation and population pressures on the land have reduced its productivity.

After checking into the Jerusalem Hotel we will start our tour of the first group of churches, returning to the hotel for lunch, and continuing the tour in the afternoon.o/n Jerusalem or Mezena hotel.

November 28:-After breakfast we set off on mule or on foot to the church of Ashetun Mariam, about 4 hours’ round trip. We pass small villages on the way up and there are wonderful views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the mountain where the church is located. Those of our visitors who do not feel up to a hike or mule ride can go a shorter distance by car to the cave church of NeakutoLeab.

After lunch we set off by car to the cave church of Yemrehane Christos, built by the king of the same name before the reign of King Lalibela. The church is constructed inside a cave, in Axumite style, similar to the 7th century monastery at DebreDamo in Tigray, with alternating levels of wood and stone. A 40 km trip from Lalibela followed by a 10 minute hike brings you to this beautiful church, the finest example of its kind in Ethiopia. o/n Mount View Hotel.

November 29,:-Transfer to the airport for the flight to Axum (1000-1040).

From around 200 BC to 700 AD, Axum was the seat of an Empire which extended across the Red Sea to Arabia, traded with India and China, minted its own coinage, had its own alphabet and notational system, constructed great engineering works and dams and which was reckoned by the 4th century Persian historian Mani to be one of the four great powers of the ancient world, alongside Persia, China and Rome. Today the visitor can see stelae (the largest single pieces of stone erected anywhere on the world, it is still not understood how they were transported from the quarry 4 km away and erected), the tombs and castles of kings, Axum Museum and Mariamtsion Church, built on the site of Ethiopia’s first church. A chapel within the church compound is believed by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to house the Ark of the Covenant, or the original tablets of Moses on which are inscribed the 10 Commandments (see Graham Hancock’s The Sign and the Seal).

On arrival we transfer to the Yeha Hotel, situated on a hill overlooking the stellae. We start our tour after an early lunch with a visit to the newly constructed museum, immediately behind the stellae.

We then ascend the hill to the east to see the castle and tomb of King Kalab, passing on the way Mai Shum (or the bath of the Queen of Sheba), and also the stone on which is carved exploits of the Axumite kings in three languages, Ge’ez, Himyar (from Yemen) and Greek.

Coming back into town we will see the tomb of King Basen, whom Orthodox Ethiopians believe was one of the three Magi who brought presents to the infant Jesus.

We then proceed to the grounds the grounds of MariamtsionChurch, we can see the ruins of the old church, and the stone seats of judges.

Inside the grounds we will visit the small museum (women are not allowed inside, nor into the 17th century church built by Emperor Fasilides, but the priests usually bring out some crowns of kings for women visitors to see), and end the day with a visit to the site known locally as Queen Sheba’s Palace, although in fact it is of a later date, the villa of an Axumite notable from around the 1st century AD. Dinner in hotel.o/n Sabean Hotel.

November 30– Today in the morning you have a visit of the 500BC Yeha temple and the museum of AbuneAftseChurrch in late afternoon you attend the ceremony of the yearly celebration of Axum Tsion o/n Sabean hotel.
December 01 :- full day attending the annual celebration of Axum Tsion Mariam today the Icon of Tsion Mariam will come out from the main church held by a priest or a monk of the church and walk round the church over .Here you will see many people round the Icon singing the holy song of Orthodox Christian the participants may reach up to 50.000 people o/n Sabean hotel .
December 02:- Transfer to the airport for you flight return back to Addis on your arrival our driver will give you a transfer to the hotel if you have enough time you come out for shopping , in the evening you will be invited dinner in Yod Abyssinian cultural restaurant at same you will see the Ethiopian ethnical dance from different corners of the country and after then you will be transferred to the airport for your final departure and this will be the final tour of you.