By Tsegay Hagos
The Axumite Kingdom was one of the superpowers of the ancient times. Once, it was the mightiest kingdom politically, economically and culturally. It had strong trade ties with the prosperous kingdoms such as Persia, Rome and Greek. The Axumite coins which were minted from gold and bronze have depicted how much strong the kingdom was by that time. Christianity was first introduced during the 4th century AD by two Syrian monks. The then King of the Kingdom, King Ezana accepted as his state religion and expanded it to all parts of the kingdom.
King Ezana renown in building several churches and monasteries in his kingdom (present day Ethiopia and Eritrea) and as part of his ambition, he built the most influential church in the country, The Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion. The Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion is the most important of all churches and monasteries in Ethiopia. It is found in Northern Ethiopia, in Tigray State in the ancient town of Axum. The original church is believed to be built by King Ezana in 372 AD. The church has been rebuilt many times since then. However, the Cathedral of Our Lady Mary of Zion, built during the reign of Emperor Fasilides. What makes the ancient church more unique is that because it kept the Holy Arc of the Covenant for thousands of years.
Though St. Marry of Zion has prestigious religious significance which could amuse tourists, it has not been promoted yet to the outside world. Having understood this, Axum Culture and Tourism Office is working to increase the tourist flow in collaboration with the Tigray Culture and Tourism Bureau, Ministry of Culture and Tourism and other concerned bodies. Axum Culture and Tourism Office Head Gebremedhin Fitsm told The Ethiopian Herald that the number of pilgrims is increasing from time to time. But he insisted more promotion activities remain to be undertaken.
“Axum has untapped tourism potential. Beside the historic part mostly related to the Axumite civilization, St. marries of Zion has huge tourism importance. More than anything else, it is the home of the arc of the covenant. We should exploit all these blessings to generate income which could benefit the nations and the nearby community,”
He indicated that more than 450,000 people have attended at the feast of our St. Marry of Zion which was celebrated colorfully yesterday in the historical city of Axum. Gebremedihn stated that three committees from public, business people and administration were formed to undertake warm reception, to arrange accommodation and to ensure peace and security.
“The preparation was started one month ago. The three committees have done great job. The reception committee had the mandate of welcoming guests and providing necessary hospitality,” Gebremedhin indicated, adding that there were youth volunteers who are committed to welcome their guests in an hospitable manner and have erected 15 tents in the streets to serve food and drinks for those who have not relatives in the city.
For his part, Kibrom Tadesse, a tour guide at a private tour and travel agency told The Ethiopian Herald that visiting St. Marry of Zion has been the life time dream of most Christians. “As we know all of us, our people give high value for their religion. Thus, visiting St. Mary of Zion is the lifetime dream of most Ethiopians.” But he stressed that many things remain to be accomplished before aiming at luring more tourists to the area. Tour and travel agents should have to modernize their service and should ask fair price. “Nowadays, you can do nothing without cooperation. There should be cooperation and integration among travel agents, hotel and hospitality service providers, Ministry of Culture and Tourism to upgrade the sector to higher level,” Kibrom noted. Hence, the cooperation of all pertinent bodies would help to unveil the mystery of St. Marry of Zion in particular and Axum in general to the rest of world.