Thursday, December 19, 2019

Ethiopia - Churches

In Ethiopia it wasn't all about the birds. We had a day on the front end and did a city tour of Addis Ababa. And on the back end of the tour we did an extension to the western Ethiopian highlands, home of the magnificent rock churches of Lalibela. 

In Addis we visited the Holy Trinity Cathedral, a beautiful pre-colonial Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church. It opened in 1942 and is the second most important place of worship in Ehtiopia. 

In the late 12th century, King Lalibela commisioned the construction of 11 rock-hewn churches to recreate the holy city of Jerusalem in his own country. This massive construction was completed in just 23 years,using only basic hand tools of chisels and hammers, and remains to this day an important place of pilgrimage for Ethiopian Orthodox Christian worshipers. In 1978 it was named a UNESCO world heritage site. Over the course of two afternoons we visited all the churches and passed through many of the interconnecting tunnels. It was all pretty amazing.

The most amazing of all was the Church of St George, carved down into a solid block of volcanic tuff. The depth of this trench is 100 feet!

Photo courtesy of Tim Walsh

On our last full day we hiked up the mountain to the Ashetan Maryam Monestary, and early rock-hewn church of King Lalibela. The hike was about 2 miles and up 1,500 feet passing through beautiful country with amazing views. We might have even seen a bird or two along the way!

Our guide Ermiyas and one of the local priests

Our spectacular visit to Lalibela was made possible by our local guide Ermiyas Workye. Not only is Ermiyas an expert on the churches of Lalibela but he's a fantastic bird guide as well. We highly recommend Ermiyas if you are in the area for birds or culture!