The return of the obelisk or stele of Axum has suffered another setback. It should have left in March 2005 to go back to Ethiopia in order to be ready for official celebrations for its return in Axum on 13 April. However, the obelisk is still in Italy, although the Ethiopian government has repaired and lengthened the airstrip at Axum, in order to allow the huge Antonov 124 aircraft required for the transport to land.
The official reason for the delay is technical problems, although it is rumoured that there is not sufficient fuel at Axum for the aircrafts return journey.
The massive stone, dating from 1st-4th century AD, 24 metres high and 160 tons in weight, was brought to Rome in 1937, when Ethiopia was occupied by Italy, and erected near the Circus Maximus.
The Ethiopian government asked for the obelisk to be returned to Axum, their holiest city, and the Italians agreed to do this and pay the costs. It was dismantled and put into store near Fiumicino airport and is still awaiting transport.