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The Blue Nile sweeps through the highlands of Ethiopia covering areas filled with fascinating stories, legends and relics. 

Mysteries of Lake Tana and the Island Monasteries
Lake Tana contains islands that are home to some of the oldest monasteries in the world.  These buildings hark back to the 15th century and contain artifacts known to be much older.  Treasures such as royal crowns, elegant manuscripts, art collections, sacred relics and the spooky remains of five former Ethiopian emperors encased in glass are just some of the items to be found. One monastery is said to have been home to the important religious relic known as the Ark of the Covenant.  According to legend, the Ark was taken from the ancient city of Jerusalem by a man named Menelik who was thought to be the son of  King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.  He is said to have brought it home to Ethiopia for safe keeping and stored it at Tana Cherkos monastery for 800 years - a claim supported by records preserved in the Ethiopian Royal Chronicles.  The current location of the Ark of the Covenant is unknown, however, speculation on its whereabouts was the source of inspiration for the popular film “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

Legends of the Blue Nile Gorge
The Blue Nile Gorge and surrounding mountainous regions were once home to some of the fiercest tribes in the world.  During a period from the early 1950’s to the mid 1970’s several early Nile explorers met their demise from violent tribesmen that attacked and butchered expeditions that passed through this region.  In addition to the violence of tribes were the added hazards of renegade bandits, crocodiles and reports of poisonous steam.  Gruesome accounts are still retold in local folklore of early explorers that were dragged to their death by vicious crocodiles or stabbed, shot and beaten while they camped along the river.  Much like the dreaded Dankil tribe from the Awash River area, it is thought that tribes in this area hunted white explorers as trophy pieces, castrating the corpses and removing their prize.

King Solomon's Mines
It is said that if you listen carefully, you can still hear the clank of the picks in King Solomon’s mines.  The legendary gold mines of “Ophir” were thought to be the source of the vast quantities of gold used by King Solomon to build his great temple.  The quest for the mines have been the inspiration for many romantic novels set in Africa.  The existence and location of the lost mines has been widely disputed, but legend suggests that they were located in
Nejo, Ethiopia - just south of the course of the Blue Nile

The Valley of Marvels
Interesting natural formations in the Dakhata Valley dot the landscape over an area of 13 km (8 miles) in what is now referred to as the “Valley of Marvels”.  These unusual volcanic formations have been created by the natural forces of the earth, wind and fire and now resemble mysterious objects.  Local folklore describes a much richer history of the creation of the valley than does its geological counterpart.

The Ethiopian Slave Trade
It is unseemly to speak of the horrors of the slave trade.  However, it is the unfortunate reality that up until the mid 19th century the slave trade was an important source of revenue to Ethiopia.  For nearly three centuries the country’s primary source of export was slaves that were sold to markets all over the world.  In the height of the trade numbers reached as high as 25,000 slaves a year.

The Secrets of the Toothless Smiles
Many river dwellers along the Nile have 6 teeth from the lower jaw extracted at a young age.  This curious practice was thought to prevent death from tetanus or “lockjaw”.

Legends of the Castles and Churches of Ethiopia
Ethiopia possesses some of the most impressive examples of ancient African architecture. The town of Gondor has been called the “Camelot of Africa” and Lalibella has been referred to as Africa’s  “Petra”.  The local legends regarding the building of these structures often hinges on help coming from angels, archangels and chosen rulers.  Some scholars have estimated a workforce of 40,000 would have been required to build the rock-hewn churches of Lalibella.  This is perhaps why legend suggests that the construction was achieved by men working by day and angels by night.  The churches of Lalibella were carved out of solid blocks of rock and have been referred to as the eighth wonder of the world.

 


 

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