April 19, 2005 was a day thousands of Ethiopians cheered and wept with joy seeing the ancient axumite obelisk which was taken by the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, was returned home.

Axum Obelisk ErectedThe joy has even been greater as tens of thousands of Ethiopians cheered on Thursday September 04, 2008 celebrating its erection on the original place from where Mussolini took it.

The whole event has taken place at Axum, a small town surrounded by hills, having a glorious past in which part of it is yet unexcavated.

The exposed one showcases its nobility with large monuments, impressive obelisks, temples, and palaces.

The three major obelisks were carved with doors and windows representing multi storied buildings of the ancient world.

It was shortly before the conversion of the Axumite state into Christianity which was around 330 AD that these solid block of granite stones were carved.

One obelisk is 25 meters in height, weighed no less than 120 tones, was excavated, transported some three kilometers, beautifully carved, and then finally erected by the then Axumites.

The obelisk was the second largest and most beautifully carved one among the three remarkable sky scrappers in the ancient Axum.

As was described by a British traveler Henry Salt, in 1805:

“My attention was for a long time riveted on this beautiful and extraordinary monument…. it made nearly as forcible an impression on my mind as the first moment I beheld it” also adding he said “…the most admirable and perfect monument of its kind”.

Mussolini took the obelisk the one 10 meters shorter than the tallest shipping it by boat to Naples then to Rome where it was erected in front of the head quarters of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). It was erected on October 1937 to mark the anniversary of Mussolini’s seizure of power in Italy.

Since then Ethiopian governments and good friends of the country have been exerting all diplomatic pressures on the Italian government to repatriate the monument.

On April 19, 2005 Ethiopians celebrated the return of this great monument and since then have been longing its erection to be on its original place. Now just this week the dream has been fulfilled and the erection has taken place and officially celebrated at the ancient Ethiopian capital – Axum.

Axum StelaeThe event was special not only because of the monument itself but also the timing is so important at which we are celebrating our millennium.

It is a motivating force for the country to look back to its history, where at one time it has enjoyed being among the few super powers.

The monolithic obelisks were the biggest blocks of stone ever carved by human beings anywhere in the world.

Representing a twelve story palace they also signify Axum’s heyday and greatest prosperity.

As history recalls, Axum was enjoying a great commercial civilization trading with distant lands, among them Egypt, Arabia, Persia, India and Ceylon. The ancient Axumites exported gold, ivory, rhinoceros horn and hippopotamus hide.

They also imported all kinds of textiles like cottons and silks, as well as knives, swords, drinking cups and metal for local manufacture into all sorts of objects. Among these were numerous luxury goods including gold and silver plate, military cloaks for the nobility, olive oil and lacquer ware.

This can be seen in the Axumite currency, in gold, silver and bronze and inscriptions in Greek and Ge´ez (an ancient language now used only in Ethiopian Orthodox church among the clergies).

The ancient Axumites were also renowned as fine builders and crafts men, skilled in particular as masons and metal workers as will be evident to anyone visiting the city’s antiquities.

Ethiopia once again wishes to repeat its great history overcoming the challenges and all the hardship it is currently facing. The erection and restoration of the monument means a lot more to its people than a mere festival. It will be our renaissance and revival to once again repeat history, at least to overcome poverty.

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

Eskinder Hailu
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