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It was from this coastline, anthropologists say, that homo sapiens ﬁrst left Africa 80,000 years ago, swimming across the Red Sea to what is now Yemen, the start of a long wandering that would scatter mankind around the world. It is also along this stretch, historians believe, that a Semitic people – the Sabaeans – journeyed in the opposite direction in the ﬁrst millennium BC, crossing from the south Arabian peninsula into Africa and bringing its sophisticated language, metal-working and stone-cutting skills to the indigenous Hamitic dwellers on the plateau. Half an hour’s drive north of the modern Eritrean village of Foro lies the evidence of what that Sabaean inﬂux eventually gave rise to: the partiallyexcavated ruins of Adulis, port of one of the greatest trading nations the world has ever seen. The Axumite empire spilled over into what is today Yemen and Saudi Arabia, embracing Eritrea, Djibouti, northern Ethiopia and stretching into Sudan and Somalia. It lasted around 1,000 years, although dates are incredibly sketchy: some historians place its birth in the ﬁrst century AD, some in 300 BC, others as far back as 600 BC. In its day, it was considered one of the most powerful kingdoms on the globe, ranked alongside those of Persia, China and Rome. Sailing from Adulis, its merchants exported myrrh, frankincense, gold dust, ivory and slaves as far as India. The descendants of the Sabaeans developed Geez, precursor of the languages used today in the highlands of Eritrea and Ethiopia; they manufactured glass, minted coins and carved the vast, strangely modern-looking obelisks that still tower over the northern Ethiopian town of Axum.