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