As I started explaining last time Qohaito, is located 2,500 meters above sea level in the Debub(Northern) region of Eritrea, on a high plateau at the very edge of the edge of the Great Rift Valley. It’s a beautiful place that takes residence in one of the most ancient and historical places of Africa. Although Qohaito’s ruins have yet to be excavated it’s an interpretation of different experts and scientist that it was a pre-Aksumite city that thrived during the Aksumite period. The rock art near the town appears to indicate habitation in the area since the fifth millennium BC. And the ancient port of Adulis lies directly to the east.
Qohaito remained unexplored until a team of National Museum of Eritrea conducted a systematic survey and inventory works between the years 1996 and 1998.When they got to the sites some parts of it was modified or “ruined’ by the inhabitants of the previous decades.
The site of Qohaito must not be taken as a single site but as a cluster of sites. An urban city surrounded by many towns and hamlets that have prospered because of the caravan that traveled to and from Axum. In fact in a document dated to the end of the first century AD it is noted that Qohaito thrived as a stop on the trade route between Adulis and Aksum
Sometimes, it is also identified by the name, Koloe, of the Periplus of the Eryhraean Sea especially to the Ancient Greeks. It is thought that previously this city had been the Aksumite (one of the oldest known civilization in the sub-Saharan Africa) empire’s summer capital.
Very close to the town, there is a Rock art that indicates domicile in the area. Added to this, the city also offers the magnificent view of Mount Ambasoira that is considered to be the highest mountain peak of Eritrea.
It is a place of major historical significance. The landscape of this place also seems to be extremely enchanting.
With the course of time Qohaito is becoming one of the most important places of interest to the tourists. Between the main places that are worth visiting in Qohaito it is also include the cave of Adi Alauti.
Here one can find a number of desolated buildings; the crops were interspersed with buildings in the town, ruined buildings including the pre-Christian Temple of Mariam Wakino and the Sahira Dam (which may be pre-Aksumite). Plus the city is built with complex buildings that make it obvious that it couldn’t be just a village but part of an empire. There are dozens of ancient archaeological complexes varying generally in structure, size and depth. There are also many erected pillars or temples on platforms dispersed widely throughout the plateau. And the sites contain many large mounds, elaborate monumental architecture, and cistern (such as features and one large ancient dam and water reservoir basin).
The ruins at Qohaito were first located in 1868, but at the time erroneously it was identified as a “Greek depot”. However, decades of civil war and autocratic rule have prevented Eritrea from properly excavating this important site and learning more of its poorly detailed history. A related site outside of Senafe, Matara, lies about 15 kilometers to the south, and was excavated in the 1960s.
In the site registration done last spring in the plateau of Qohaito, more than 300 sites were identified. Of these sites, the majority were ruined building complexes (mounds). The distribution of the rock art sites over the Qohaito plateau is almost even. There are some rock art sites in the north, east and west parts of the plateau. Most of these rock art sites are found on cliffs and caves, which are usually inaccessible or with great difficulty; only few are found on a flat surface. Some of the most famous mentioned rock art sites of Qohaito are Iyago, Adi Alewti, Karibosa and HAdamu.
Qohaito,which in Saho means “rock”, holds some valley floors, steep sided hilltops, sand stones flat lands and rarely basaltic rocks. Nowadays some Saho and a few Tigrigna ethnic groups live in the area.
Qohaito heritage sites have a significant economic potential as magnets for public education and tourism. But it hasn’t been realized yet. Qohaito indeed can be an exceptional site to carry research activities on the non-elite population that are often ignored by many researchers doing research in Africa.
The ancient history of Eritrea could serve to construct a national identity and consciousness in one of the “oldest new nations” in Africa that can legitimately point to unambiguous roots in the distant past.
In the end I think it is quite clear that without a trip to Qohaito, Eritrean tour is indeed an incomplete one.