Lalibela’s carved churches are an eighth wonder of the world. The exhilarating climate and views around F&R Lodge, the finest in the land. The town’s reclusive isolation, and small size, have the best lodgings outside Ethiopia’s capital. With visitors returning. Yet much of the rural population of the highlands are poor much like their ancestors. Yemrehanna Kristos is worth a trip by truck or van, from Lalibela. Asheton Mariam monastery the origin of many holy books, is 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 so it would be easier to find. Further on a trek to Degosach, and the 11,000′ level of Abune Yosef, will also inspire visitors.
Lalibela is undoubtedly Ethiopia’s famous town. Popularity however hasn’t eliminated the poverty, and is witnessed in the vicinity. As younger women and children are often seen going about daily tasks under heavy work-loads. Activities reflecting strong contrasts with standards of developed countries where visitors are from. And though sanitation and cleanliness look threadbare, our comforts definitely are not.
A note about Lalibela’s water supply. Although considered drinkable, as it has been 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, more than 900 years ago. Today, a supreme ecclesiastical centre of Ethiopian Orthodoxy, and major pilgrimage site. Inspiring pious believers from miles around to seek religious blessings. Although Lalibela’s church exteriors and interiors, are composed of local volcanic tufa, the architecture’s exceptionally diverse. Forming isolated monoliths within deep pits, or hewn out of the cliff-face. Most churches operating with daily services. Academically, disputes are ongoing in relation to church construction. And durations of erection. Ethiopian Orthodox tradition claim edifice construction was miraculously intervened. Legends recounting how angels replaced day-labourers during the 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 having similarity to those of Axum, in northern Ethiopia, flourishing 800 years before it. 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 translates to ‘Jordan’. Debre Zeit (a hill in Lalibela) with ‘Mount of Olives’ in Jerusalem.
No doubt King Lalibela who gave the latter town its title was rebuilding Jerusalem. Around the historical sacking of Lalibela’s counterpart by the Muslim king Saladin. All remaining for Ethiopia’s highly-remembered 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 are licensed to operate in other parts of Ethiopia