- Parent Category: Guide to Ethiopia
- Published Date
Tigray Region (Tigrāy Kilil) is the northernmost of the nine ethnic regions (kililoch) of Ethiopia containing the homeland of the Tigray people. It was formerly known as Region 1. Its capital is Mek'ele.
Tigray is bordered by Eritrea to the north (independent from Ethiopia since 1993), Sudan to the west, the Afar Region to the east and the Amhara Region to the south.
Besides Mek'ele, other major towns and cities in Tigray include Abiy Addi, Adigrat, Adwa, Aksum, Humera, Inda Selassie, Korem, Alamata, Maychew, Wukro, Qwiha, and Zalambessa, as well as the historically significant village of Yeha.
Tigrai is the mother of all civilizations in the horn of Africa. It is the Source of the Geez fidel, Christainity and Islam. Tigrai is the land of Qdoos Yaryed, Axum, Yeha and Wuqro Negash. Tigrai is the land of dauntless Emperors such as: Ezana, Kaleb, Armaha, Abraha, Elamda, Almeda, ZeraYakob... Yowhaness; Ras Alula, General Hayelom and much more.
Tigrai is The home of the Ark of the covenant, the land of the Just, brave, free and fair. We have nothing to apologize, be sorry or fear for in our history, but we have everything to be proud of !!
A complete and comprehensive history of Ethiopia is yet to be written. Tigrai has long and glorious history. Yet, it is not fully researched and even what is known is not fully recorded, or what is written it is often distorted.
Tigraian history goes back long into the period before our Era. A visitor to Tigrai will visit the historical relics of the past. The oldest place to visit is what remains of ''The Temple of the Sun'' in Yeha which is an architectural wonder of the world. Yet, the area around Yeha, which, according to same archaeologists, is supposed to be of historical remains of antiquity and has yet to be explored.
The French archaeologist who worked in this area was forced to abandon his work after the military coups which over threw Emperor Haile Selassie's government.
Now that peace and stability has come to the land, let us hope that some archaeologists could resume the work.
The problem with European scholars is their premise, which emanates from colonial era and asserts that Africa has no history. The French archaeologist de Contenson who worked in the Yeha area, in an article which is included in the UNESCO General History of Africa: Ancient civilisations of Africa volume II has this to say:
'' .......Thanks to the palaeographic and stylistic studies of J. Pirenne, the parallel examples found in Southern Arabia can be dated from the fifth and fourth centuries before our era. This chronology has been accepted by all the specialists in this field of research. It is generally agreed that the same dates apply to the finds made in Ethiopia, although the hypothesis put forward by Conti Rossini of a time lag between the two shores of the Red Sea cannot be definitely ruled out.
According to F. Anfray, there is reason to think that in the future it will be necessary to reduce the time span, and perhaps to advance the dates of the South Arabian period ''P343''
Why? It is because the author, like many others think Yeha is an imitation and not an original idea. Yet given what transpired later specially during the Axumite era one would suggest that there was much more advanced civilization flourishing in northern Ethiopia, and there is the possibility that Southern Arabia learnt from the ancient civilisation in northern Ethiopia and not vice versa. This, in some ways, is similar to the idea that was long held by scholars that the Semitic's language emanates in the Middle East, when as current scholars have come to conclude that in fact it emanates in the western parts of northern Ethiopia. There are many dialects of Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia than any where in the world. Many of these languages are much older and more archaic than Arabic or Hebrew according to Bender, American scholar.
However, much of the fame of Ethiopia and Tigrai is based on the great Axumite civilisation. Axum was contemporary to the Roman and Greek civilisations of antiquity. The Axumite kingdom in northern Ethiopia was a seafaring nation. Its influence and suzerainty often extended across the Red Sea to include parts of to-day's Arabia and Yemen. When Yemen was invaded by Israel it was the Axumite army led by Abraha that saved it.
Abraha remained in Yemen and become the first ruler of Yemen whose dynasty ruled that country for centuries. Axum traded wide in those days and its ships were going as far as India and beyond.
In the parts of India Chinese ships were protected from marauders by Ethiopian or Axumite strong men. This is clearly recorded by Ebin Batuta, an Arab writer.
Axum was a force to recon with and the Rome king wrote a letter to the king of Axum asking him to help keep the silk route open and free from Persian pressure, which at that time was interfering.
Axum's greatness is still to-day visible from the archaeological remains which we still see. The obelisks of Axum have no match in the world. No one to this very day has been able to give satisfactory explanation of how it was done, transported and erected. One of the fallen obelisks, the biggest by far, is carved on all four sides.
How did they turn over such a massive stone to curve on all four sides? This is a question for which no one has yet come-up with full and plausible explanation.
A German expedition in 1906 to the area in and around Axum has recorded what they saw and studied in four volumes. They also did some reconstruction in pictures of the ruins in Axum.
Yet, there is a great deal more hidden under ground, which is waiting for archaeological scholars to discover and record. To-date the archaeological work was almost all done by foreign scholars, but now that Axum and Mekelle University, among others, has opened an archaeological department and there is a great deal of hope that Ethiopian scholars will emerge and conduct research.
In any case a visitor really has a great deal more to see in and around Axum, a Kingdom, which back to the period before Christianity and to about the eleventh century A.D.
Axum was also the gate -way to Christianity, which came to the country around 340A.D. The Christian church which is of the Easter Orthodox persuasion is well established in the country.
A visitor to Tigrai would be able to see and visit many churches, some of which are perched high on top of mountains, there are also some one hundred and twenty rock hewn church's in Tigrai, many of which are also not easily accessible because of their location high on mountain tops. Finally there are archaeological sites, some only recently discovered, that are worth visiting.
The Kingdom of Axum was the haven, which gave refuge to the followers of Mohammed when they were fleeing from persecution in Saudi Arabia.
That is why Mohammed enjoined his followers not to declare jihad or holy war against Ethiopia Christians and Moslems have since lived in harmony in Ethiopia.
Nature lovers have a lot to see in Tigrai. The mountainous nature of the Region invites mountain climbing. There are also a number of bird sanctuaries in the area and many species of birds that are endemic to the region.
The Regional Commission for Tourism and culture will have all the information a traveller needs on this score.
Ethiopia has its own alphabet. Tigrai is in the origin of this alphabet. In the Axumite Era many stone slabs with inscriptions in Geez and Greek were produced and left as historical relics. Some of these writings on stone slabs describe the expeditions of the kings in pursuit of their enemies. These expeditions extended to the Sudan, along the Nile to southern Egypt. There are a few of the slabs still standing which the visitor can see. The Germans have also recorded what is written on religion the slabs and have pictures of them. The alphabet was used to produce great many literatures in Geez. The literature is written on parchments. Many of the ancient Hebrew religious literature such of the book of Henok are to day found in their Geez version only, thanks to the Axumite scholars.