Photography / Travel

Photo Friday – Lalibela, Ethiopia

The mountainous town of Lalibela located in northern Ethiopia is mecca to Ethiopian Orthodox Christians as it is a pilgrimage center in the country. It is a symbolic Jerusalem. I know I’m mixing up my religious metaphors but you get the picture.

The 11 medieval monolithic cave churches are the main reason tourists to Ethiopia visit Lalibela but the scenic mountains will form a perfect backdrop to your visit with opportunities to hike if you’re so inclined.

As I am learning, Ethiopia is full of legends and how these churches came to be is no exception. Lalibela initially known as Roha was renamed after King Lalibela’s death whose story goes like this: as a boy he was surrounded by a swarm of bees (a symbol of sovereignty) which caused his mother to believe he would be king one day. This made his brother, who was to ascend the throne, jealous so he poisoned Lalibela who didn’t die and whilst in a deep sleep dreamt of a city with rock-hewn churches.

The other version has a sister poisoning him. And in another version he was exiled in Jerusalem for sometime and was inspired to build a ‘new Jerusalem’ upon his return. As pilgrimage to Jerusalem at the time was a dangerous and tiring journey with many not surviving it, it is said that to visit Lalibela for the devout would be considered the same as pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

The town even has its own River Jordan which flows only during the rainy season.

The marvel of the rock-hewn churches cannot be done justice on camera but I hope this gives you a sense.

From an archaeological point of view, much is still being learned about these sites which are now UNESCO Heritage sites with projects underway to assess how best to protect them. For this reason majority of the churches have been set up with some infrastructure to protect them in the meantime. It may not be pretty but ignore it and take in this wonder of human history.

What is wonderful to experience is that they are living monuments frequented by locals.

Click on any image to view all in slide show. To see them enlarged whilst in slide show click ‘view full size’ at the bottom of each image.

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