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Yeha and Debre Damo


Ethiopia's earliest known capital, Yeha, is 55km drive from Axum through some dramatic highland scenery. As the birthplace of the country's earliest high civilization, it is well worth visiting. The ruins of this large, pre-Christian temple, erected around the fifth century BC, consist of a single roofless oblong chamber 20 meters along by 15 meters wide. The windowless 10 meters high walls are built of smoothly polished stones, some of them more than 3 meters long, carefully placed one atop the other without the use of mortar.



Debre Damo

The monastery of Debre Damo (closed to women), which is said to have the oldest nine Saints, built the church in the sixth century. The monastery of Debre Damo can only be reached by rope pulley.

The treasured secrets within, kept intact throughout the country's 1,400 tumultuous years of history because of that arduous, dangerous ascent, include an extensive collection of manuscripts, among them the oldest surviving fragments of texts anywhere in Ethiopia. The church now houses about fifty manuscripts, although the monks claim that they formerly possessed no less than a thousand existing intact church in Ethiopia.