The timeless, sacred town of Lalibela
Lalibela Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
Never travel with an Irish who has no appreciation for culture; I did and I, dare say, nothing than can excuse the ignorance. My travels to Ethiopia had previously taken me to the capital Addis Ababa, but this time around, I journeyed to Lalibela at the invitation of my friend Brendan who then was working as the country director for Irish Aid. He had just been reassigned from Lusaka Zambia to work in the office in Addis Ababa. Brendan and I, had, had many times together in foreign places; Lusaka, Dar-es-Salaam, Kampala and Nairobi, but we had never actually taken a tour to any place of interest in any of the fore mentioned countries. I did not think anything unusual when he decided we would do something different and don't I love culture? There is more than just culture in Ethiopia, it is a country of another time, another place.
After what seemed like an endless morning, Brendan picked me up and we headed out. Laibela is pretty up north and is one of the holiest cities in all of Africa, attracting pilgrims from all over the world. We arrived late and checked into the Tukul hotel (will need to check spelling on this, it's been a while). We were booked in for two nights and I think we had a room with a balcony. Of course Brendan was a diplomat so he got a great diplomatic rate at the hotel, I still remember the lady with a gap in her teeth greeting us at the reception with a smile that warms the heart.
I was so intrigued with this small town sitting at a slightly high elevation; it is the one place that attracts tourists from all corners of the world. It is the site of the most outstanding sacred sites known as the Rock Hewn Churches (eleven in all). Each of the churches are entirely built of one solid granite block with ground level roofing, a different architectural style altogether. These extraordinary churches are the source of economic income for the small town of Lalibela which depends on tourism for its livelihood as well. Without these churches, Lalibela would be one of those unknown towns.
It has been preserved in its ancient way with limited modern amenities/ utilities like gas stations for instance. It seems a large population of the town is comprised of priests, and religious rites are the order of the day. The simple lifestyle makes this town modest and reverent. I have not seen anything like it in my entire life. Brendan kept making funny comments in his deep Irish accents. It was quite simply a holy experience for me. We managed to attend prayers at one of the churches, the whole experience left me feeling convicted as I was not attending church regularly at the time.
PS: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain