Known as the cradle of civilization, Ethiopia is in the Horn of Africa and is bounded by Somalia, Kenya and the Sudan. Ethiopia is where the fossilized remains dubbed "Lucy" were found, the earliest example to date (3.5 million years) of an upright bi-pedaled hominid. Ethiopia has a rich historical heritage, and there are several landmarks that shouldn't be missed during a visit.
These majestic obelisks, one more than a hundred feet in height and weighing more than five tons, decorate the Ethiopian landscape near Axum. It is unknown what their purpose is or who created them, but historians believe that they were memorials to the deceased kings and queens who ruled over Axum from 5,000 to 2,000 years ago. The obelisks are carved from single blocks of black granite, and the carving is both mysterious and beautiful. These are the largest stelae ever quarried and carved in the ancient world. According to Sacred Sites, the monoliths are carved into what look like stories, as in a building, with window-like areas and what may be false doors with locks.
Church of St. Mary of Zion
The Church of St. Mary of Zion, also in Axum, is associated with a deep mystery regarding the Arc of the Covenant. Two churches are surrounded by a containing wall, and between them lies the site of an ancient church that is guarded heavily day and night. A Portuguese explorer named Francisco Alvarez visited the church in 1520 and documented that the church was made up of five naves with a vaulted ceiling, painted magnificently. It is interesting that such an elaborate edifice would be found in the mountains in a remote part of Ethiopia. The church is rumored to contain the Arc of the Covenant, which was built to hold the stone tables of the Ten Commandments that Moses allegedly brought down from Mt. Horeb, along with his brother Aaron's staff.
Lalibela, Cross of St. George
Between the 7th and 11th centuries, Ethiopia went through some changes in transitioning from Arabic influences to a largely Christian region. Ruling in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, King Lalibela ordered the construction of 12 churches hewn from solid rock. While still a prince, Lalibela was poisoned by his older brother, and when he recovered he told the story of angels taking him to heaven where God instructed him to build New Jerusalem by erecting churches of distinct design. As legend tells it, after three days Lalibela returned to the living and took over the throne from his brother Harbay, who had also been visited by God and told to abdicate. The stone churches took 25 years to shape, and Lalibela and Harbay cooperated together for the construction. The most notable of these churches is the Cross of St. George, which has a relief carved into the roof of three Greek crosses, one inside the other.