|St Gyorgis Rock Church, Lalibela
I left Motta two weeks ago and now after long flights via Dubai and Bangkok and two nights in Sydney we are in New Zealand.. But before leaving Ethiopia we made a quick tour of the top tourist spots in Northern Ethiopia – Lalibela, Gonder, the Simien Mountains, the Monasteries on Lake Tana,and Addis Ababa. The distances between these places are not huge but the road to Lalibela and the road north from Gonder to the Mountains are rocky dusty tracks that even 4WD vehicles struggle along – we went in a minivan, and passed several wrecked ones along the way. Lalibela is famous for the eleven 700 year old churches carved into the solid rock, and on the Ethiopian Xmas Day pilgrims flock to them in their thousands. My guide book reckons that if these amazing constructions were as accessible as the Pyramids they would be more popular. It also makes the point that unlike the Pyramids these are still living functioning sacred sites, and believers who get there perhaps only once in their lives leave with a huge sense of rejuvenation and re-invigoration of their faith that can only be felt in such places. We didn’t see much in the way of organized religious ceremony, but there were spontaneous outbreaks of singing and clapping, open air preaching, praying and personal acts of devotion and worhip at every site, at every icon, at every gateway and altar throughout the site. We saw one man whipping himself – albeit rather languidly – but nothing else that was weird or hysterical. Everyone was dressed in white and on Xmas night thousands gathered around the churches and eventually slept there in the rocks and hollows and crevices round about. When we left, people in our minivan were ecstatic about their visit.
|The view from our tent
|Angels guarding the Massive doors into the Holy of Holies