I woke up in a very unfamiliar environment, it felt so strange; there was a pretty lady in the room. All of a sudden the events of yesterday flashed through my mind. Last night I was in Nigeria and now I am waking up in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is a country similar to Nigeria in more ways than one. It is the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria. It is a multilingual nation, with around 80 ethno linguistic groups. A majority of the population are Christians while one third are Muslims. The official language is Amharic.
Grin! Grin!! Grin!!! ,
That was my phone ringing, it was the short guy from the Archaeological Society of Nigeria, he said we would receive the needed tools and extra hand by the afternoon, he then added that the recruitment for contacts in Ethiopia had been organised by a job seeking organisation called Jobs®. They were looking for people with great social skills who could speak English with a good understanding of the terrain and Fuka Rohio made the top of the list.
“Ahhh” I responded,
He asked how we were feeling and I said we were good.
Charon had woken up when the phone was ringing and she also spoke to the short guy.
“His name is Obi”, She said; as she put down the phone.
I asked; “whose name is Obi?”
“The person the society is sending over”, she replied as though this Obi was a bearer of untold disaster.
I decided to probe further.
“Who is Obi?” I requested. “Do you know him?”.
She replied with a very succinct “NO”
I obviously knew that we had not heard the last of this Obi entity, yet but I hoped it would be good words to be heard and not the opposite.
At breakfast, Charon was rather gloomy although I must confess the food was quite the opposite, it was toasted bread, toasted egg and black coffee. It had just the right amount of toasted and black to make a man brown with satisfaction.
Gbenga was the best host anyone could wish for. We thanked him for breakfast, and while Charon retired to her room, I stayed back with him and talked about the latest in sports and politics.
You see Nigerians do not do well to support their own national football clubs instead, they support European football clubs, I was a supporter of Arsenal football club in England while Gbenga supported Manchester united. Gbenga and I argued on which was the better football team, we soon became tired as I returned to the room while he went ahead to attend to business matters.
“My name is Obi and I would be in charge of logistics, and any other activities involved in this trip. I am happy to be here in Ethiopia and I want to do the best I can to make us enjoy this adventure, but we would need to be careful and as I have been briefed, you have already been attacked once and I wouldn’t want that to happen again, so before anybody does anything, you report to me. And Charon; am I happy to see you. I hope we’ve gotten over our little issue”.
This was Obi, a big burly mass of a human being, True to their promise; Obi arrived this afternoon and met us at Gbenga’s place with a barrage of unending words. First off; now, I totally understand the problem between Obi and Charon. To say that Obi talks too much is giving him too much compliment. Just when I thought I was going to enjoy this trip, Obi comes along. Rather unfortunate turn of events.
Obi had already booked our flight to Axum. We waited for Gbenga to return then we said our fair well and appreciated him for his hospitality. He ensured that we had ever thing we needed, he even saw us off to the airport [what a gentle man].
The flight from Lagos to Addis Ababa wasn’t eventful, I might have mentioned that before but the one hour thirty minutes flight from Addis Ababa to Axum was . . . [Clears throat]. In fact, Obi is an event and that is all there is to say. He wanted to find out about everything, even up to my favourite colour.
Come on! Which straight guy asks for that?
Anyway Axum is about 355 miles from Addis Ababa and in itself quite a modern town, but we were interested in its ancient city, which was the location of the heart of ancient Ethiopia, when the kingdom of Aksum was at the height of its power, when it was the third most powerful empire in the world from the 1st to 8th century AD.
The well travelled Persian prophet called Mani regarded Aksum as the third greatest power of his time after Persia and Rome, with China been the fourth. Axum is famous for its stelae (upright stone pillars), with the longest one being as long as 33m before it fell and it is said to be the largest monolithic stele that ancient human beings ever attempted to erect. The home of the purported Queen of Sheba is also acclaimed to be Aksum, which is also the alleged resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
As the plane skidded to a stop at the Emperor Yohannes IV airport in Axum and we got out, I began to realise how much I had missed Ethiopia, the country side air was different and very refreshing. This was Ethiopia, where the landscape was exquisite and the people were tall.
We took a taxi at the airport to Sabean International hotel, where our rooms had been booked; we dropped our things in the hotel and continued to the stelae field close to the remarkable church of Tsion while Obi stayed back to do whatever big fat men do, I was already getting tired of his busy bodied nature.
When we got to the stelae field, we paid for a tour guide. The tour was fun, and then we got to the King Ezana stele. Charon and I looked at the stele from afar to see if we could find anything related to the numbers inscribed on the phyllite.
Maybe it had something to do with the landscape, I thought.
I saw nothing; it had nothing to do with the landscape because the landscape was made of overgrown trees, with nothing standing out. Honestly I didn’t know what to expect but I was hoping Charon did. Looking at her, my hope plummeted because she looked as clueless as I did.
“Maybe if we got closer, we could make something out of it”, I said.
The stele was built to resemble a storey building flattened at its vertical axis. It had a door at the bottom and widows up to the top. It had nine storeys and a roof. The instruction on the phyllite plate was
. . . Aksum is the destination, and behind the stelae of King Ezana would you find 123456789 and in front of it you shall find 12345678.
Did it mean that there was something to see on the ninth floor in front and on the eighth floor behind the stele?
If that was the case, it would be difficult to ascertain because the stele was 23m high and to put in perspective, the height of the average man is about 1.6m.
We couldn’t make out anything out of the ordinary from the ground on the 9th floor in front nor the 8th floor behind.
Rejoining the tour; the guide was talking about how it was considered, that the king Ezana stele may fall due to the fact that it wasn’t straight but leaning at an angle. Studies were made and results showed the stele was stable and the angle it had, was present since its time of construction.
“Could that be it” Charon exclaimed, sounding excited.
“Could that be what?” I asked, half expectantly
“Could it be that what we are to find is what made the stele lean?” She replied.
So that’s what she is excited about? The only thing I was excited about was that the leaning tower of Pisa wasn’t the only leaning structure after all.
“Didn’t you listen?” I asked, “The guide said that studies showed that the stele was built that way”.
“Maybe it wasn’t, she replied. She had an evil grin on her face now.
I had no idea what was going through her brilliant mind, but whatever it was; it didn’t seem like it was going to end well.
“Let’s go” She said.
“Go where”, I replied.
She started for a tall administrative building nearby and dragged me to the roof. Her excitement was infectious but I still couldn’t guess what we were doing until she brought out what seemed like a baton from her back pack and angled it towards the stele.
Her facial expression slowly turned from that of excitement to that of frustration. What she brought out was a state of the art monocular which had the magnification power of 10,000 times. It magnified the stele so much; it seemed like, I was holding it in my hand.
I saw what put the frown on her face; she had expected there would be a defect in the stele, which would provide an ample hiding place for anything the crusaders would want to hide and would cause the stele to lean, but there was nothing, it was clean; there was nothing out of the ordinary and it was frustrating.
We finished the tour with the rest of the group and by the end of the day; we were no closer to finding the other piece of the puzzle than we were at the beginning of the day.
Personally, I don’t know how to respond well to failure.
On the way back to the hotel, I kept thinking of what the clue meant and how we could solve the puzzle. It was a very quiet drive back because Charon was doing the same too.
Edited by Osoata Vanessa
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