Serving as the capital of the Tigray region, Mekelle is a lively cultural, political and economic hub in northern Ethiopia. It’s home to several notable churches and vibrant markets where salt from the Danakil Depression is traded, as well as a grand palace-turned-museum dedicated to the 19th-century Emperor Yohannes IV.
Things to do in Mekele
Stroll through the colourful streets of Mekele to experience the comings and goings of daily life before venturing into one of the markets that are piled high with fresh produce. Coincide your visit with the open-air Edaga Seni or the Saturday Market when caravans of camels carrying huge bars of salt arrive in Mekelle from the Danakil Depression.
Visit the Ethiopian Orthodox churches of Enda Gabir and Mekelle Iyesus, then pay your respects at the soaring Martyrs’ Memorial Monument. It commemorates those who fought during the overthrow of the communist Derg regime in 1991 and is marked by sculptures depicting the struggle of the peasants. The complex also features a museum dedicated to the uprising, a library and a restaurant as well as commanding views across the surrounding area.
A cultural highlight of Mekele is the Yohannes IV Museum, which occupies an Italian-inspired stone palace that was built for Emperor Yohannes IV. In addition to his royal bed, ceremonial dress and antique rifles, the museum also features an impressive throne designed by the Italian engineer Giacomo Nareri in 1874 for the emperor.
Alula Aba Nega Airport is around 25 minutes by taxi from the centre of Mekelle and is connected to Addis Ababa by daily flights. Buses and minibuses travel from Mekelle to towns across northern Ethiopia, while taxis can whisk you to destinations across the city.