In the days after Ethiopia’s historic peace deal with Eritrea, we look at why this country should be next on your visit list.
Ethiopia's history reads like a fusion of myth and legend, its titanic characters performing grandiose deeds and accomplishing iconic feats. One of my favourites portrays Ethiopia's Queen of Sheba's momentous meeting with King Solomon of Jerusalem. Ethiopian chroniclers wax lyrical about the abundance of spices, profusion of gold and mountain of precious stones that she brought, about how Solomon converted her to the One True God – whether this was Judaism or Islam depends on who's telling the story – and how he wined her and dined her, then artfully seduced her. Emperor Menelik I, born of this union, was the ﬁrst Emperor of Ethiopia, and it is said that from him all emperors through to Emperor Haile Selassie were
Whatever you might think of such stories, a number of objects remain, living proof of Ethiopia's longevity and signiﬁcance. Lucy, part of a female skeleton and the earliest known example of upright walking hominins, has been dated to 3.2 million years ago. The obelisks of Axum, one of which is the largest such structure in the world, were built sometime during the dominance of the Axumite Empire, almost two millennia ago. Axum is also the site of what might be the remains of the Queen of Sheba's palace, and – it's said – of the Arc of the Covenant: according to legend, Emperor Menelik, on a visit to his father King Solomon, carried oﬀ the Arc of the Covenant – with divine assistance – which, until this day, remains at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion.
The churches of Tigrey, carved into the pinnacles of the region's surreal rock formations, have been dated to around the 4th century AD.
The Danakil Depression is the hottest place on earth in terms of year-round average temperatures. It's also stunning – with vivid bubbling sulphur and shifting molten rocks.
Erte Ale, meaning Smoking Mountain, is a continually active volcano with two lava lakes. The climb is undertaken at night, and the vision of crimson lava spitting from the caldera at midnight is – as the locals say – like looking into the gates of hell.