What has put Axum on the tourist radar goes beyond Christian times. Superbly carved Stelae from those times still point 35 meters into the sky. Then they marked the tombs of royalty and nobility.
The biggest one toppled over, smashing some of the tombs dug into ground below. The broken pieces still lay there lined up, unmoved over all this time. What made it fall? Its base was too small to carry the 150 tons, but of course there is a local version of this disaster – Yodit, a vicious Jewish Queen, pushed it over after raiding Axum.
Some of the tombs below are still intact and accessible, with vaulted passages and up to ten chambers. Sadly, all had been looted before archeologists discovered them.
The ultimate place to stay in Axum is the Yeha Hotel, despite the steep 75 USD for a double room. Like all the other tourists, we sat on its gorgeous terrace gazing over the ancient Stelae Field. The grand view, warm rooms during torrential downpours and a generator to bridge the numerous power breakdowns were all worth it. But even here maintenance has no tradition and the fact that all the tour buses and jeeps do not park outside on the parking lots but in the beautiful yard was rather annoying. Mornings and evenings reminded of Piccadilly Circus.