The lady never dies! In Ethiopia she is talked about, celebrated and remembered in the holy texts of three main religions--Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Her name is the Queen of Sheba. The story in the sacred texts describes her as the politically powerful queen (or queen consort) of the ancient and strong empire of Sheba, today`s Yemen and Ethiopia.
Here's the sacred texts story...The Queen heard of the renowned wise King Solomon of Israel, 10th century BCE. Curious, she packed her bags, and with expensive gifts and a list of questions to test Solomon's wisdom, she set sail to pay him a royal visit. The sacred texts simply regard the visit as a formal one between two royals.
Then there's the Ethiopian version--far more interesting. After the Queen unpacks her bags, Solomon--who apparently has more going for him than brains and bobbles--seduces her with a clever scheme. He invites her to a banquet, and services her with a lot of spicy food assured to make her thirsty. He then invites her to stay the night in the palace. She agrees on one condition--that he will not force himself upon her. He agrees on the counter condition that she will not take any precious items from the palace by force. Everything is ok until the Queen is awakened in the night with a ferocious thirst. But...just as she reaches for a jar by her bed to take a drink, who do you think appears in the room? You guessed it, Solomon--figured he waited outside her room half the night just for this pregnant moment. So, he accuses her of getting ready to steal the jar. To save herself from an international incident, she releases the king from his vow not to force her into a moment of one-sided intimacy. So they enjoy a night of bliss without ever signing a treaty!
Did I say 'pregnant' moment? Well, that's exactly what happened.
The Queen returned home with more than she originally planned. The son she bore was Menelik, who became, as tradition has it, the first Jewish king of the Aksumite empire. Remember--it was Menelik I who visited his father and took the Ark of the Covenant back to Ethiopia to protect it from being stolen.
Was the Queen of Sheba real or myth? No smoking-gun proof, but her story has been around a long time. It appears in Ethiopia about 700 years ago. Josephus (1st century) writes that the Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia visited Solomon. She was hailed to be Queen of Arabia. Her name pops up in Nigeria. Medieval and Renaissance stories and paintings connect her with the virgin Mary and gifts from the Magi. And she appears in Turkish and Persian paintings.
So, this girl gets around! A doctoral student and friend of mine in UK has studied this Queen and says she is still an inspiration for women as one who walked as an equal among men of high stature and political power! This woman never dies!
Photo: The Pool of the Queen of Sheba (near the steles and Ark of the Covenant): We know this is an ancient pool. traditionally the pool that Queen of Sheba bathed in. In the 1950s, Emperor Haile Selassie opened it for the whole community to enjoy, which explains its modern design. This is an important religious and traditional site, with large gatherings during festivals