The Obelisk of Axum is a 1,700-year-old, 24-metres (78-foot) tall granite stele/obelisk, weighing 160 tonnes, in the city of Axum in Ethiopia. It is ornamented with two false doors at the base and features decorations resembling windows on all sides. The obelisk ends in a semi-circular top part, which used to be enclosed by metal frames.
After the Italian conquest of Ethiopia. In 1937, it was looted as prey of war and moved to Rome by the Fascist regime, which wanted to commemorate the conquest of Ethiopia and the birth of the ephemeral "new Roman empire".
In a 1947 UN agreement, Italy agreed to return the stele to Ethiopia, obviously with the other prey of war, the Lion of Judah. Instead of the latter, which was actually returned in 1967, after the 1961 visit of emperor Haile Selassie in Italy, little action was taken to return the stele for more than 50 years, also in consequence of the considerable technical difficulties related to such a transport.
When it was reassembled three steel bars were inserted per section, however this caused the Obelisk to be hit and damaged by a thunderbolt during a violent thunderstorm over Rome, on 27 May 2002. In the new reconstruction the three sections are fixed together by a total of eight aramid fiber (Kevlar) bars: four between the first and second and four between the second and third sections. This arrangement guarantees structural resistance during earthquakes and avoids the use of steel, so as not to again make the stele a magnet for lightning (and to avoid rust).
Several other similar stelae/obelisks exist in Ethiopia and Eritrea, such as the Hawulti in Metera. Like the Obelisk of Axum, the other stele have a rectangular base with a false door carved on one side.