For more than a century Henry Rider Haggard's novel King Solomon's Mines has inspired generations of young men to set forth in search of adventure. But long before Rider Haggard's classic, explorers, theologians and scientists scoured the known world for the source of King Solomon's astonishing wealth. The Bible's wisest king built a temple at Jerusalem that was said to be more fabulous than any other landmark in the ancient world. It was adorned with an abundance of gold, gleaned from a mysterious land known as Ophir.
Taking his leads from a mixture of texts including The Septuagint, the earliest known form of the Bible, as well as using geological, geographical and folkloric sources, Tahir Shah sets out in search for Solomon's gold mines. For him the obvious place to look is Ethiopia, in the horn of Africa.
The ensuing journey takes him to a remote cliff-face monastery where the monks pull visitors up on a leather rope, to the ruined castles of Gondar, and to the rock hewn churches at Lalibela. Then in the south of the country Shah discovers a massive illegal gold mine, itself like something out of the Old Testament, with thousands of men, women and children digging with their hands. But the hardest leg of the journey is to the 'cursed mountain' of Tullu Wallel where legend says there lies an ancient shaft, once the entrance to Solomon's mines.