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 are enjoying 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 lying 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 making it easier to find. A further trek to Degosach at the 11,000′ level of Abune Yosef is also inspiring.
Lalibela though Ethiopia’s famous town popularity hasn’t eliminated poverty. As younger women and children are seen going about daily tasks under heavy work-loads. Activities reflecting contrast with the standards of developed countries where visitors are from. Although sanitation and cleanliness may look threadbare, our accommodations are not.
A note about Lalibela’s water supply. Water is treated but 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 ecclesiastical centre of Ethiopian Orthodoxy and a 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 operating with daily services. Disputes are ongoing in relation to church construction, and the duration of erection. Orthodox traditions claiming edifice construction was miraculously intervened. Legends recounting how angels replaced day-labourers during night periods to accomplish it.
Oldest hewn buildings were not originally churches but became churches by the 11th or 12th centuries. Structures which are similar to those in Axum in northern Ethiopia and later extended. Some designs have been compared to the Tomb of Adam, or the Church of Golgotha, in the original Jerusalem. Lalibela’s waterway Yordanos translates to ‘Jordan’ in the local dialect. Debre Zeit (a hill in Lalibela) with the ‘Mount of Olives’ in Jerusalem.
It is accepted King Lalibela was rebuilding Jerusalem after the historical sacking of Lalibela’s counterpart by the Muslim king Saladin. All remains 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 local churches and monuments. Federally licensed tour-guides are licensed to operate in other parts of Ethiopia