Temple of the Moon

Yeha

Ethiopia's historic route begins with a glance at the tantalizing remains of Yeha - the country's earliest high civilization. In a remote part of Tigray region, Yeha lays several hours drive from the more accessible city of Axum; the journey takes you on rough tracks through dramatic highland scenery and eventually ends in a beautiful and serene agricultural hamlet. It is there, close to a much more recent Christian church, that you may see the towering ruins of Yeha's Temple of the Moon built more than 2,500 years ago, in Sabaean times.

The temple is an imposing rectangular edifice. Though it has long since lost its roof and upper storey the ruins stand some twelve meters in height. As evening falls, the temple's finely dressed and polished limestone reflects the glow of the setting sun with a warmth and brilliance that cannot be accidental. The huge, precisely fitted blocks from which the inward- inclining walls are formed seem to bear out ancient opinion that Sabaean buildings could be filled with water without a single drop being lost.

Apart from the temple, however which speaks eloquently of the works of a high civilization, little or nothing is known about the people who built this great edifice. Indeed, their origins are wrapped in mystery of which, perhaps, the greatest is this: if a culture had evolved to the level of sophistication required to build monuments of such quality in the highlands of Tigray by the sixth century BC, then what were its antecedents? What came before it? And how far back does Ethiopian civilization really go? So far the archaeologists have uncovered no convincing answers to these questions.

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