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 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 and origin of many holy books lies higher at 3000 meters. Asheton translates to ‘aroma’ in Amharic because King Neakutoleas the nephew of King Lalibela, burned frankincense 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, as younger women and children go about daily tasks under heavy work-loads. Activities showing contrast with the standards of developed countries where visitors are from. Though sanitation and cleanliness will look threadbare our accommodations are not.
A note about Lalibela’s water supply. Although it is chlorinated most visitors use our 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 and major pilgrimage site. Though church exteriors and interiors are 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 ongoing in relation to church construction, and duration of erections. Orthodox tradition claiming edifice construction was miraculously intervened. The legends recounting how angels replaced day-labourers during night periods to accomplish the feat.
Oldest hewn buildings were not originally churches but became churches by 11th or 12th centuries. The structures with similarity to those of Axum in northern Ethiopia. The complex 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 translating to ‘Jordan’. Debre Zeit (a hill in Lalibela) with ‘Mount of Olives’ in Jerusalem.
It is accepted King Lalibela was rebuilding Jerusalem around the historical sacking of Lalibela’s counterpart, the Muslim king Saladin. All remaining of the Ethiopian monarch being 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 licensed to operate in other parts of Ethiopia