Category Archives: axumite

The start of Ramadan and the first Muslims who came to Ethiopia

The Grand Anwar Mosque in Merkato, Addis Ababa

The Grand Anwar Mosque in Merkato, Addis Ababa

Today is the start of Ramadan, the great fasting month in the Muslim calendar. Muslims around the world will not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset for the lunar month. As the dates go with the lunar calendar they move through the western calendar year, actually the month moves forward a few weeks each year.

Coin from K.Amrah's reign

Coin from K.Amrah’s reign (Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. http://www.cngcoins.com)

In fact Islam has a long and special history in Ethiopia, with the first Muslims coming to Ethiopia in about 615AD to escape persecution in Mecca  during the reign of the Axumite King Armah (Ashama Ibn Abjar in Islamic tradition).

It is said that he heard them tell about their new religion and their beliefs and thought it so similar to his country’s Christian beliefs that he welcomed them and settled them in Negash in Tigray.  In this town, north of Wukro, there is still a mosque at the site of the original mosque in Ethiopia.

In Islamic history and tradition, Ethiopia (or Al-Habasha) is known as the “Haven of the First Migration or Hijra.”  For Muslims, Ethiopia is synonymous with freedom from persecution and emancipation from fear.

This was the start of a long and durable interwoven history of Muslims and Christians in northern Ethiopia. In the south Wollo area (a bit south of Tigray) Muslims and Christians have intermarried and the children have been able to choose their faith- whether to follow their mother or father. Indeed, in the main town of the area (Dessie) some years ago the fast at the end of Ramadan fell on Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas (7 January) and the town celebrated both festivals together.

Harar city in Ethiopia

Harar city in Ethiopia

For those wishing to see the Islamic side of Ethiopia, the best starting point is now the old walled city of Harar with its many mosques and narrow alleyways.

Ramadan Mubarek to all my Muslim friends who are fasting this month.

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Tigray – new community guest house

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Community guest house at Amba Fekada

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Ruins near Amba Fekada, said to be a temple of the Queen of Sheba

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Pre Axumite rock art

A new community guest house has opened in the north of Tigray on a mountain called Amba Fekada. The mountain is surrounded by gorges, and across one valley you can see the mountain on which Debre Damo is perched. In the nearby village is a church, whose compound is full of fallen down pillars that date back to the early or even pre-Axumite period. There is also a patch of rock on Amba Fekada with a painting that is also pre-Axumite depicting humpless cattle ploughing (which dates the painting to the period before humped cattle were introduced.

At the moment we are suggesting a night here with the community- your guide from Adigrat will help you get a bus up from town, costing less than 10 birr a seat, you would then spend part of the day exploring the area and the sites. After a night as guests of the local community, either do some more exploring or scatch the bus back to Adigrat.

Adigrat can be reached on the good asphalt roads from Axum or Mekele on public transport, or let us arrange a private vehicle for you.

We hope that very soon you will be able to trek to or from Amba Fekada, Chehat (the guest house to the south) and Mugulat (the guest house that connects the trek to the more established community guest houses, west and south of Adigrat.

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