Where did the Queen of Sheba rule—Arabia or Africa?

There is little debate about the location of King Solomon's Jerusalem, but scholars are still searching for the land of gold and spices that the Queen of Sheba called home.

King Solomon meets the Queen of Sheba in this 16th-century painting by Lambert Sustris. National Gallery, London.
THE NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDON/RMN-GRAND PALAIS

The story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba appears in the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles: An unnamed queen from Sheba travels to Jerusalem bearing gold, jewels, and spices. A seeker of knowledge, the queen has a special interest in the reputedly wise Solomon and tests him with some “hard questions.” Solomon meets the challenge and lavishes hospitality on the queen, who reciprocates with gifts.

“Never again were so many spices brought in as those the Queen of Sheba gave to Solomon.” Later, she tells him: “In wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard”(1 Kings 10:7). 

This biblical encounter has had an enormous impact on the popular imagination, projecting themes of beauty, wealth, power, exoticism, intrigue, magic, and love. The queen has inspired Turkish and Persian miniatures, European painting and music, and the 1959 Hollywood epic Solomon and Sheba, with Yul Brynner as the wise king and Gina Lollobrigida as his match. 

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