African Adventure Tours

Omo Valley Tribes

Hiking in Ethiopia

Ethiopia Bird Watching

Car Rental

Contact Us

The Original Ark of the Covenant

Aba Pentilion Church in Axum For centuries the Ark of the Covenant, containing the 10 commandments, was kept in the church of Mary of Zion in Axum where emperor Iyasu is recorded to have seen it as one of the last persons in 1691.

Today it is kept in the Chapel of the Tablet, which was built especially for this purpose during the reign of the last emperor Haile Selassie. The relic is entrusted to a single guardian who serves the Ark until his time arrives and he appoints an other guardian. No one else can approach it, not even the high priest of Axum.

The first hint of the presence of the Ark in Ethiopia is found in a medieval epic written in Geez, The Glory of Kings. It describes how Queen Sheba traveled to Jerusalem to learn from the great wisdom of King Solomon. Solomon, impressed by her intelligence and her beauty, began to hope to have a child by her, something that should work out for him later on. The son, Menelik II, returned as an adult to Jerusalem to visit his father. Solomon anointed him as king of Ethiopia and instructed some of his counselors to go with him to Africa. Because the young Israelites were desperately unhappy that they would never see Jerusalem again, they decided to carry the Ark with them. Zion church in Axum

We know from the evidence of coins and inscriptions that the ancient kings of Axum were pagan until the 4th century A.D., when they converted to Christianity. There is no evidence that they claimed descent from King Solomon or that they were especially interested in the Ark of the Covenant. The earliest hint of the Ark in Ethiopia appears at the end of the 12th century, in a letter of an Armenian named Abu Salih, who wrote to Cairo that the Ethiopians possessed the Ark of the Covenant and that it was brought by a large number of light colored, blond haired Israelites, descendents of King Solomon. Some popular writers believe that Abu Salih is clearly stating that the Ark was carried by a mysterious group of Europeans rather than Ethiopians. But a song about Solomon describes him as white and red cheeked with hair like fine gold.

Rock church of Weckro Cherkos Abu Salih seems to describe people he had never seen himself but who were said to be related to the kings of Israel. Perhaps the most remarkable hint Abu Salih describes is the decoration of the Ark. Crosses would be a very unusual feature for an ancient Israelite Ark which leads to the suggestion that Abu Salih is describing a Christian Ark of a later period.

While sacred stones have survived in Mecca for at least sixteen centuries, there is no reason why an ancient stone tablet could not have survived in Axum as well. The clergy in Axum clearly believes that more than one Tablet or Ark can be the real and true Ark. As a careful reading of the Hebrew and Greek versions of the Bible also reveals evidence of more than one Ark, the Ethiopian tradition should not be thought to be impossible. It seems that the Ark really is in Axum, but in a way that is more surprising than most writers on the subject have assumed.