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Lalibela’s carved churches are an eighth wonder of the world. The exhilarating climate and views around F&R the finest in the land. The town’s reclusive isolation and small size enjoy the best lodgings outside Ethiopia’s capital. With visitors returning. Yet much of the rural population of the highlands are poor like their ancestors. Yemrehanna Kristos is visited by car or van from Lalibela. Asheton Mariam monastery, origin of major holy books, lies higher at roughly 3000 meters. Asheton translates to ‘aroma’ in Amharic because King Neakutoleas, the nephew of King Lalibela, burned frankincense when building St. Mary’s Church to make it easier to find. A further trek to Degosach at the 11,000′ level of Abune Yosef, is also inspiring.

Lalibela is Ethiopia’s famous town. However popularity hasn’t eliminated poverty and witnessed in the vicinity, as younger women and children are noticed going about daily tasks under heavy work-loads. Activities showing contrasts with standards of developed countries where visitors are from. And though sanitation and cleanliness will look threadbare, our accommodations are not.

A note about Lalibela’s water supply. Considered drinkable and properly chlorinated most visitors will opt for bottled water for drinking purposes.

Lalibela, formerly Roha, was founded by King Gebre Mesquel Lalibela of the Zagwe dynasty about 900 years ago. Today supreme ecclesiastical centre of Ethiopian Orthodoxy. A major pilgrimage site inspiring pious believers to seek religious blessings. Although church exteriors and interiors are composed of local volcanic tufa the architecture’s diverse, forming isolated monoliths within deep pits, and hewn out of the cliff-face. Most churches operating with daily services. Disputes are still ongoing in relation to church construction, and  duration of erections. Ethiopian Orthodox tradition claim edifice construction was miraculously intervened. Some legends recounting how angels replaced day-labourers during night periods to accomplish the feat.

The oldest hewn buildings were not originally churches but became churches by the 11th or 12th centuries. The structures with similarity to those of Axum in northern Ethiopia built 800 years before them. The complex also later extended. Some designs are compared to the Tomb of Adam, and Church of Golgotha, and buildings of the original Jerusalem. Lalibela’s waterway of Yordanos in the local dialect translates to ‘Jordan’. Debre Zeit (a hill in Lalibela) with ‘Mount of Olives’ in Jerusalem.

It is strongly accepted King Lalibela who gave the latter town its title was rebuilding Jerusalem around the historical sacking of Lalibela’s counterpart, the Muslim king Saladin. All remaining of the Ethiopian monarch is a cloth-draped feature in the Church of Golgotha. An unlikely monument for one of Ethiopia’s pivotal kings.

Note: Guides in Ethiopia are licensed in various ways depending on the area. Rock-hewn church-guides in Lalibela are licensed only for the local churches, and monuments. Federally licensed tour-guides are licensed to operate in other parts of Ethiopia

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