ETHIOPIA HISTORY and Geography
Ethiopia’s earliest history is rooted farther north. The ancient town of Axum , which was one of the very first capitals of Semitic culture in northern Ethiopia, was founded about 1000BC and is the first stage in Ethiopia’s famous ‘historic Route’
The earliest capital was actually at nearby Yeha. The Axumite Kingdom was known as ‘the most powerful state between the roman empire and Persia’.
Much earlier records show that the Egyptians knew the area to lie somewhere south in ‘the land of Punt’ also known as ‘the Land of the Gods’, and, from around 3000 BC they had obtained gold, ivory, fragrant woods and slaves from there.
Later, Egyptian ships sailing to India and back called at the Red Sea Port of Adulis, which served as Axum’s main outlet to the sea, just south of modern Massawa. Axum went into decline between the 7th and 8th centuries AD, when power moved south to another remarkable site- Roha, later named after its inspired ruler, king Lalibela. The project he supervised 800years ago-eleven remarkable churches, hand-carved out of the living bedrock some 250 kilometers south east of Axum- remains today for all to see. Described as ‘a creating of angels’, however, the very advanced architecture technology used suggests these churches were built by more earthly beings.
Gonder is 50 km north of Lake Tana, 500 kilometers north of Addis Ababa and situated in the foot hills of Simien mountains at 2,200 meters above sea level .Gonder was the capital of Ethiopia from the rise of Fasiladas (1632 -1667) to the fall of Tewodros (1855-68) , which is reflected in the many castles and palaces in the city. During the long years when it was a capital the settlement emerged as one of the largest, and most populous, city in the realm. It was great commercial centre trading with the rich lands south of the Blue Nile, as well as with Sudan to the west inhabitants include many rich Catholic and Muslim merchants as well as a number of Falashas or Judaic Ethiopians also know as Bet Israel’ who were predominantly weavers, black smiths and potters as well as palace and church builders.
Over the centuries the country has had many capitals, from Yeha, Axum, Lalibela, Gondor and long periods of encampments. It was some centuries before the present capital Addis Abeba was found in late 19th century by Menelik the second. At an altitude of 2500 meters (8000ft) , Addis Ababa is the third highest capital city in the world, after La Paz and Quito in South America. It stands more or less at the centre of this vast sprawling country with its many contrasting landscapes.
Ethiopia’s historic route does not end at Addis Ababa. Some 500 km to the east of the capita, perched at the end of a spur projecting from the central plateau, lays the old walled city of Harar dating back to medieval times, a city redolent of the Middle Eastern world. Its history has been almost as violent and bloody as that of the north, but there the centuries have been marked by wars between rival Muslim factions and against the Christian Orthodox church. Five massive gates in the walls of the city centre stand testimony to the need for strong defense against past invaders. It was long the custom for the gate keys to be kept overnight only by the city’s commander.