Sprawling, dusty, and rural - Aksum is modest almost to a fault. On first sight, it's hard to imagine that the town was ever the site of a great civilisation. Yet Aksum is one of Ethiopia's star attractions.
Littered with massive teetering stelae, ruins of palaces, underground tombs (most still undiscovered) and inscriptions rivalling the Rosetta stone itself, the town once formed part of the Aksumite kingdom. It has a vibrancy, life and continuing national importance very rarely found at ancient sites. Pilgrims still journey to Aksum and the great majority of Ethiopians believe passionately that the Ark of the Covenant resides here.
Though no longer a wealthy metropolis, the town continues to flourish as a centre of local trade; life continues as it has for millennia. Around the crumbling palaces, farmers go on ploughing their land, women continue to wash their clothes in the Queen of Sheba's Bath, and marketgoers and their donkeys hurry past the towering stelae. You won't find pyramid-parking coaches or sound-and-light shows here. And inextricably interwoven with the archaeological evidence is the local tradition - the legends, myths and fables.