From the 10th to the 1st centuries BC, Axum (also spelled Aksum) was the capital of the great Axumite Empire, which is considered one of the last of the great civilizations. It was a thriving hub of commerce with Red Sea and Indian Ocean ports and the earliest Christian kingdom in the world.
Modern Axum retains little of its former grandeur, but it is still the spiritual heart of the country. It is a deeply religious city (both Ethiopian Orthodox and Sunni Muslim) that houses the country's most sacred artifact, the reputed Ark of the Covenant.
Axum is where Christianity arrived in the fourth century and it is the holiest city of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith. Axum is also a delight to archaeologists, with ruins of ancient tombs, stelae, palaces and churches seen everywhere. Amazingly, 98 percent of the ancient city remains to be excavated. For all this historical and religious richness, the city of Axum has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.