King Solomon, the Bible's wisest king, possessed extraordinary wealth. He built a temple at Jerusalem that was said to be more fabulous than any other landmark in the ancient world, heavily adorned with gold from Ophir. The precise location of this legendary land of Ophir has been one of history's great unsolved mysteries.
Tahir Shah takes up the quest, using as his leads a mixture of texts including The Septuagint (the earliest form of the Bible), and geological, geographical and folkloric sources. The evidence leads him to Ethiopia whose imperial family claims descent from Menelik, the son born to Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The trail takes Shah to a cliff-face monastery where visitors have to be pulled on a leather rope; to the ruined castles of Gondar; to illegal gold mines where thousands of men women and children dig with their hands; and finally to the accursed mountain of Tullu Wallel, where legend has it that there lies an ancient shaft, once the entrance to King Solomon's Mines.
.....the "mines of Suleiman," or Solomon.
King Solomon had built a great temple in Jerusalem on the site which later became the Dome of the Rock, decorating it lavishly with gold brought to him by the Queen of Sheba. Though he had hundreds of wives and concubines, he was greatly attracted to the Queen, and when she eventually returned to her own country, the land of Ophir, she was accompanied by hundreds of camels laden with gifts from the king. Legend says that she came back pregnant with the king’s child, a boy she brought up by herself. King Solomon died in 926 B.C., and his heirs kept their enemies at bay for four hundred years, but eventually, the Babylonians succeeded in attacking and destroying the city and the temple. They removed all the gold and shipped it home.
No one knows what direction the Queen of Sheba followed on her trips to and from Jerusalem, or where the legendary Ophir and its gold mines were located. Some have claimed Ophir to be in Zimbabwe, H. Rider Haggard thought it was in South Africa, and others have suggested it might even be in the new world, perhaps in Haiti or Peru. A sacred Ethiopian text, however, claims that the Queen of Sheba, known there as Makeda, and her son, known as Menelek, were the ancestors of the Ethiopian emperors, including Haile Selassie. Searching for clues, Shah reads the Bible, ancient texts, and books by European adventurers such as Frank Hayter from England and Byron de Prorok from Poland, and as he shares his discoveries with the reader, the mystery of the Queen of Sheba, the land of Ophir, and the gold mines becomes more and more complex--and more and more seductive.
Accepting that the Queen was from Ethiopia, Shah sets off on his quest, armed with his books and his treasure map. He hires Samson, a taxi driver in Addis Ababa, to serve as his guide and translator, and tracks down every possible lead as to where the gold mines might have been, a difficult task since Ethiopia is very rich in gold. Many mines, both legal and illegal, are in current operation, with gold so close to the surface that men, women, and children dig the veins with their hands. Thousands more mines have been abandoned over the centuries. Shah visits many of them, always looking for a connection to Ophir.