The northern town of Axum is reputed to have been the capital of the legendary Queen of Sheba, in the 10th century BC. Once a great city and the capital of a powerful empire around the time of the birth of Christ, it is thought by some to be one of the great civilisations of antiquity, controlling the all-important trade routes between Asia and Africa for many centuries. Today it is a site of pilgrimage, containing many important religious buildings as well as palaces and tombs belonging to past Emperors of Ethiopia. The most notable of these is the church of St Mary of Tsion, which is said to contain the Ark of the Covenant and is watched over by a guardian who prevents anyone from seeing it. According to legend, the ark was brought here by Emperor Menelik, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Axum is also famous for its collection of stelae, sculpted from single pieces of granite and intricately carved. Although some are in ruins, those that remain are the legacy of one of Africa’s most powerful civilisations.
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