As in other Ethiopian points of interest, the journey was almost as interesting as the destination itself. Here are some photos I shot on the way to Lalibela:
Lalibela is famous for its 11 stone-cut churches. I’ll quote Wikipedia:
Lalibela is a town in northern Ethiopia famous for monolithicrock-cut churches. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and a center of pilgrimage. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. Ethiopia is one of the earliest nations to adopt Christianity in the first half of the fourth century, and its historical roots date to the time of the Apostles.
I was able to visit all of the eleven stone churches in Lalibela; I didn’t have time to visit the ones outside of town. Here are some photos of the churches:
It’s impressive that these structures were carved out of solid rock without the use of modern machinery. I’m told it took 30 years to built each of these churches.
There are many catacombs among the churches of Lalibela. Most of them have been emptied, but not all of them. Here are some mummies that were left behind; I could have touched them if I’d wanted to:
It was crowded when I was there; there was some sort of festival going on. At one point, we had to traverse a narrow stone bridge that led into a narrow doorway into the church. This stone bridge had to accommodate two-way traffic – and there was about a 10-foot drop on either side. It was on this bridge, with people squeezed against us on all sides, that we had to somehow remove our shoes, and place them somewhere. Here’s a view of the bridge when it was a bit less crowded, before we used it:
Across from my hotel were a few gift shops. One of them is owned by a gentleman who claims to be Falasha. I had been wondering if there were any Falashas left in Ethiopia; most all of them had been airlifted to Israel decades ago, so I was overjoyed at having found one. When I told another local man about this, he laughed and said it was just a ploy to gain my friendship and trust – in the hope that I might sponsor him someday to settle in the US or Israel. He said such “tall tales” are commonly told to tourists, and that there are no Falashas in this area. Indeed, they were found mainly in the Aksum area, not Lalibela. But what do I know; I’m just a farenji (white person/tourist). I purchased a manuscript from Serash (the “Falasha”) and I think I got a good deal; it’s a beautiful manuscript, and I paid only $50 for it:
I wandered about Lalibela with my local guide, and we visited some shops. There are interesting subjects to photograph in some of these shops. This one might have put the “bella” in “Lalibela:”