Day 117 Ethiopia : Lalibela

Last night whilst we were outside the restaurant we met up with one of the Lalibela guides, Mesrif.  We decided that as we want to get a bit more information about the rock-hewn churches than we would possibly get from wandering around, so we hired him to take us around them.  After a bit of negotiation and with tummies full of jungle oats and honey, we set off.  There are 2 sets of rock-hewn churches that can be visited in Lalibela, so we decided on the main Northwestern ones in the morning, a visit to the market during lunch and to spend the afternoon walking around the southeastern set which if we missed them due to the rain, wouldn't be a catastrophe.

Bear with me now (and skip this over if you want to) whilst I just give you a bit of background on Lalibela.  The city used to be called Roha and was the capital of Ethiopia.  King Lalibela was the ruler and when he died they changed the name of the city to Lalibela.  Legend has it that during his reign, King Lalibela fled to Jerusalem to escape the clutches of his half-brother who wanted to kill him, and whilst he was in Jerusalem thought that it would be a great idea to recreate Jerusalem in Ethiopia.  Lalibela is filled with symbols from Jerusalem.  a_SG104532 "Mount Nebo" at the front on the right and "Mount Sinai" in the background with the "River Jordan" running alongside Nebo to the left.  But the most amazing things are the churches that have each been created not by carving them into the rock but that each church is an individual rock that has been carved into a church a_SG104473.  Even the columns both inside and outside the churches are part of the same rock.  Just amazing.  a_SG104471  .  The only thing that detracts from the spectacular churches are the roofs that have been built by Unesco over 2 churches to protect them.  They certainly serve an important purpose but they are really quite ugly. But it is an entirely different story inside where coloured frescosa_SG104499, treasures a_SG104479 and artwork a_SG104515 can be seen and photographed.

Our favourite church was Bet Golgotha which is said to contain the Tomb of Christ.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to go inside the Tomb as this is reserved for men only but Trevor managed to take the camera inside with him and took a picture of the depiction of Christa_SG104519 carved into the rock as part of the church.

Outside as we were leaving a priest was reading his bible and teaching a young boy.  I thought he had the most beautiful face. a_SG104520

We walked through the rock hewn channel to the most famous of the rock-hewn churches, Bet Giorgios.  a_SG104541.  Its a massive 12m x 12m church in the form of a cross carved from a single rock.  a_SG104544  There are still ancient mummies in open caves in the rock wall a_SG104567 showing their holy, leathered feet.  And having taken off his shoes to enter the church, we got a glimpse of Trevor's "holy" socks that had the priest in fits of suppressed giggling!!!!! a_SG104566

Following on from visiting the churches, we took some timeout to see the Lalibela market.  It was very busy, bustling and in your face but filled with the scents of chillies, incense, stew spices and fresh green coffee.  But as we were walking through, the clouds that had been gathering in the mountains arrived with their thunder and lightening and as we rushed back up the hill to the hotel, the heavens opened and the rain started to fall.  We skipped the southeastern churches as we thought we might but with the main northwestern churches still firmly in our thoughts, we were happy at what we had had the privilege to see.

#1 Jayne Leach on 8.18.2009 at 7:26 AM

Your trip sounds amazing Jan - so inspiring. Keep the updates coming. Jayne

#2 brenda on 8.25.2009 at 1:13 PM

Hello there again African Travelers,

Looks like you guys are having a brilliant time. The picture you took of Mount Nebo, it reminds me so much of my adventures to Uganda. Well Jan it is clear have you not taken up darning socks yet or Trev could do it himself though!! lol. A note on the website, the last 2 times that I have tried to get on it has taken some time to load. Thought I would just mention it just in case others were battling. When I am on the site and real your stories it make me so envious, such beautiful weather, countries you are visiting and people you are meeting. All I can say from here is "Welcome to the British weather". Besides that the family are all well and not long before junior arrives. By the way John got a job and he is in "Geek Heaven". Lots of Love and safe travels Brenda

#3 gary on 8.25.2009 at 8:05 PM

Those churches are very interesting, and thats certainly something I'd like to see. It looks great out there.

P.s the two of you are looking very skinny