Still destitute but visiting amazing places

Lalibela Travel Blog

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3rd October 2005

Lalibela, 300km north of the capital, is known as 'Africa's Petra'. It's attractions are its rock hewn churches - 13th century churches carved down into sold rock from above. They are amazing.
Each one is still a working church and inside the dark corridors, rugs cover the floor. Incense is burning.
Each church has its own resident Priest, dressed in robes and holding huge centuries old crosses made out of solid silver. The majority of Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians, and still upholding centuries old rituals and traditions. It really was another world.
There were surprises around every corner - robed and wrinkled pilgrims chanting in the corner with beads, monks reading ancient bibles, priests blessing pilgrims with their crosses.

The churches are cut down into the rock, so that the roof is level with the ground. They are elaborately carved. Paths around each church have been chiselled right down, creating cliffs. Many of the cliffs have caves and hermits live in some of the.
The most famous and most photographed church is that of 'St George', carved in the shape of a cross.
If anybody saw 'The Amazing Race' when they went to Ethiopia, this was the church the contestants went to. It was really an awesome experience.

We had many offers of guides and we decided to get one (as well as explaining everything, to keep other would be guides away). We chose one of the official guides who came with an offsider (a teenage boy) who's job it was to look after our shoes (which we had to take off before entering each church). He sat outside with them while we visited. He was able to tell us when to tie up our laces (if it was a bit of a walk to the next church) or to leave them untied if the next church was close.

There were 10 churches in all that we visited. These were in Lalibela itself, but there are many others in the surrounding countryside.

That night we ventured out to a hotel down the road which had a restaurant that was recommended in our guide book. I think things had changed since the review as the food was very average and it looked like it could be doubling as a brothel (a lot of cheap hotels in Ethiopia do apparently).
There were some girls hanging out in the bar, nothing unusual about their dress by western standards, but perhaps their clothes were a bit tighter by Ethiopian standards. Apparently nice girls don't hang out in bars in this country and almost 100% are said to be prosititutes.

It wasn't a really uplifting night - we still didn't know how we were going to get some more money. When we came out it was dark, so we managed to get back to our flea pit without being mobbed.
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photo by: Aopaq