Bet Giyorgis, or Church of Saint George, is one of the most surprising and unique churches that can be found in Lalibela. It's unique because it belongs to a complex of 11 churches (all considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1978) that remains the main place of pilgrimage for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Cool, right? The people who built the church had been inspired by the buildings of Jerusalem from the time of Saladin (XII).
Bet Giyorgis is a perfect monolith that's about 15 feet high (or "deep", as it is completely dug deep into the rock). It is accessed through a sort of passageway also cut into the rock that's full of green moss and humidity. You can visit the interior (barefoot, of course), but the outside is what is really surprising and makes you look and take pictures without stopping. Don't get to close to the edge, people have fallen and died here, which is why now you can see their pictures with candles next to them.
What can I say about Lalibela. For me it was a magical place, which had an incredible energy, similar to Abu Simbel (Egypt), the Taj Mahal (India)) or Machu Pichu in Peru. It is a unique town in the world, it doesn´t seem like this is in Africa, but rather like you are on another planet. The churches are unique and the streets are amazing, the location is fantastic and so I can not say much more, just take a look at these pictures taken with all my love and if one day you can go do not miss it for anything in the world, it is worth it. In another entry I have written about the churches and this is dedicated to Alfonso Navarro Tappero , my teacher and I visited this place in 2004, but that does not matter because it is still the same. You will surely like it.
The first thing that catches the visitors attention of the Lake Shala is its hot springs. Indeed they are real hot springs in which many visitors want to take a relaxing and comforting "Turkish bath". But you have to be very careful, because sometimes the water is so hot that if you don't take the proper precautions you will scald alive. The Lake Shala is encased in a huge crater and has a really complicated access which certainly makes it an ideal place to host pairing waterfowls. Whereas the Abyata lake, separated from the former lake by a narrow tongue of land, is elongated and shallow at any point not exceeding more than 14 meters. The environment of the lakes Shala and Abyata accomodates more than 300 species of birds in more than 1040 km2. Huge crocodiles, abundant colonies of pelicans and flamingos as well as fishermen catching fishes from their fragile vessels are the typical picture of this beautiful park.
Ethiopia, located between Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, and the Sudan, is undoubtedly one of the most impacting destinations in Africa. It's a land of contrasts, both in terms of geography as well as culture and traditions. While we visited the north and south, this post is about the south. Many of the peoples of southern Ethiopia, especially around the Omo River Valley, are considered among the oldest peoples on Earth and still maintain some of their original identity, lifestyle, and customs from a distant age. To visit is to enter a life that's totally different from anything else in the world. You can't help but feel strange at first, but you'll be lulled by the locals' grand hospitality and disarming kindness.
We visited in September and everything was vibrantly green. There were colorful markets full of colorfully-dressed people and the sunsets were simply incredible.
Ethiopia is divided into two areas, north and south. In the north are the cities, palaces, castles and churches and south are the tribes. If the North is a wonderful the south is too. Inyou will foind the north are the churches of Lalibela and in the south that of the Mursi Tribe. This warrior tribe long ago discovered the "pay-per-photo" system. Whilst other tribes normally charge a birr per photo, thanks to the Germans and Americans they charge 10, extortionate. The Mursi know they are the most photogenic, especially the dishes that women wear on their lips which slowly stretch the lip out and they then put on a bigger dish. We arrived, took a few photos and left as quickly as posible. They got a bit aggressive because we were not willing to pay what they wanted for the pictures. Anyway, here are some of the potos I could get, for you all to see. By the way, not all Mursi women wear dishes. Some of themhere simply paint ethnic designs.
Gondar is north of Ethiopia, an imperial city with castles (it seems not to be Africa) from the XVII century, founded by Emperor Fasilidas in 1635. Three sovereign Fasilidas, Yohannes I and Iyassu marked the splendor of the era, founded on a farming town grew to trade, arts and buildings. It's a pleasure to walk through the ruins and admire these castles.
The Blue Nile Falls, or Tis Abaya in the Marina language (Smoke of Water), is one of those dreamy mythical places when you read stories about early explorers and discoverers. Namely, Pedro Paez, one Alcarrenian born in 1564 in a village in the now Community of Madrid. He was the first "modern" European there. He was a Jesuit missionary, who became an expert in indigenous languages and culture, and was lucky enough to know the source of the Blue Nile in 1613. It seems that little has changed in these places. Well now there's a dam generating electricity just above the falls, making the country's wealth dwindle. But the donkey road runs parallel to the Abbai River that runs between hard volcanic rocks hard. It's the path on which we started, and later crossed the Portuguese bridge and kept walking with Amhara, who was going to market with his goods (butter, honey). Until, after climbing a small hill, we began to hear the sound of water, the sound of magical waterfalls. The noise gradually got louder until we saw one of them. We moved forward and there they were. It was believed that they were the source of the Blue Nile (located nearby, on Lake Tana). It was magnificent and brown because it was the rainy season and the river was dragging mud and silt, but also beautiful and splendid.
Everyone will tell you not to go to the Merkato area in Addis Ababa. Or if you must go, don't bring a camera, documents, or valuables. On the other hand, you probably know that this is the largest African outdoor market. Let me just tell you actually leave all valuables in a safe place, except for some cash and for your camera which should be worn around the neck ... and as soon as we got there, two cops (or maybe soldiers), came to "escort" us. We didn't see it all, as we were only on a ship deck, with crowded craft stalls from all over the country, as well as clothing stalls and appliances for the locals and not much else. Nothing happened to us. We can never know if it really was dangerous (usually threats are more dramatic than reality, but you never know unless you go and see for yourself). What I would say is that it is no longer Africa's largest outdoor market. No. It is now a large network of streets where quite unsightly buildings or even shacks have been turned into shops or businesses. It is preserved by a specialist organization, and so, if you want to go shopping, you must go to a specific area. If you want clothes, to another, etc. With the monsoon rain and cold (Addis is at a considerable height, even in August it isn't hot, except for times when the sun shines, which are few), the truth is that it was not very appetizing walking around. But I don't think you should give up, and probably with a little discretion and some time, it is a more interesting place.
Just outside the town of Gondar, the Debre Birhan Selassie church is known for its murals. On a hill above the city. Beautifully painted walls telling religious stories. Look up and see the eighty heads are winged Ethiopian cherubs all smiling. Each has a slightly different expression. It is the most famous ceiling in Ethiopia.
Lucy is a pre-hominid skeleton of the species Australopithecus afarensis, 3.5 million years old. It is in the National Museum in Addis Ababa and it was one of my dreams in this fabulous journey through Ethiopia, to see Lucy. Her name is because when she was discovered at the Beatles song "Lucy in te sky with diamons" was playing. The museum located in the city center is small but very well kept, has a bit of everything yes very interesting, has paintings of Lalibela, the thrones of the emperors, and utensils. The clothes really are worth a visit, a museum in Africa it is not common and this is worth a visit.
The islands of Lake Tana house the monasteries from the eighth and ninth centuries. They're still inhabited by monks and nuns (separately, of course), which lead a secluded life, better said, monastic ... surprised by how thin some of them were, I found out that some only eat a handful of grain a day and hardly anything else! They were founded by early Christian hermits who sought a place to retreat from the underworld, and there are still pilgrims arriving, especially during busy times. One of the prettiest is the Ura Kidane Mihret, also the most frequented by tourists. About a half hour walk through the forest leads us to this circular building, which is a typical example of an Ethiopian Orthodox Church, made of mud mortar and thatched conical shape that inside hold manuscripts, ecclesiastical objects, crowns and royal garments of various emperors from the ninth century .... One of the monks agreed to let us take pictures while reading one of his "incunabula", an 8th and 9th century manuscript. Yes, there are books kept for the museum, still in use! When he decided that it was enough of a gesture with seriousness and full of authority, he dismissed us.
First of all I have to thank Otm Tm (Olga) and Anytime Anywhere tours for this wonderfully unique trip. When they took us here from Lake Tana my jaw dropped at what my eyes were seeing , the Blue Nile Falls. It was a spectacular sight: a landscape of waterfalls, noise and water vapor, surrounded by amazing greenery, with a rainbow included. I was able to see how pretty this world is, thank you for showing us this place, Olga.
The Erbore tribe is the most money hungry of all the Omo tribes. You've barely arrived to town and they are already asking for money. They follow you and hit you to get you to give them money. They see the camera in your hand and you have a whole village asking you for money. Actually it was a burden to visit this tribe which must be the distant cousins of the Mursi for as unkind as they are. Of all the tribes of the Omo the most genuine are the Banna, the Hamer and Karo in my opinion.
Just outside Lalibela is this church - Na'akuta La'ab, situated in an extraordinary place and within a natural cave. The priest showed us all his treasures and it is amazing that the crosses of gold and silver and other treasures are stored unprotected, in the West they would be fodder for antiquarians, both without any protection and the high value is something that can only happen in this country. Only one issue and it is that there are fleas, although there are a million and I do not see any bug bite me, I do not know how I got them, but it was still worth it to see this remote corner of Ethiopia
The Cathedral of St. George, the patron saint of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, an essential visit ... was built in 1896 by Emperor Menelik II to commemorate the victory against Italy at the Battle of Adwa (1896), has an octagonal shape and a neoclassical style, surrounded by gardens. The day we went we could not get in because of the funeral of a senior member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. A that could not fit in was beating on the doors,.. and we could see some of the velvet umbrellas and other fabrics, embroidered, used on special occasions, such as Easter and renowned processions.
Gondar, the Simien mountains feet, was founded by Fasilidas in the 17th century, and was a political, administrative, commercial, religious and cultural center for over 250 years. It fell as a result of intrigues and dynasty struggles, was aggravated when Tewodoros II moved the seat of the imperial government to Debre Tabor, 100 km southeast. After, the city was looted by Sudanese Mahdists in the 19th century, and last occupied by Italian fascist troops in WWII. Some structures were damaged by the bombing during the liberation campaign. This is one of the historical sites in Ethiopia. Who would imagine that in SSA you would find some authentic medieval castles? It was the emperor who constructed the 1t Fasilidas, and his successors continued to construct the rest of forts around, churches and baths, to make an architecturally unique areain the country and in Africa. The royal enclosure, Gebbi in the center of the city, is full of castles and ancillary structures: the file, the home of the musicians, the block, the sauna, the bathrooms, the house of the spinners ... all linked by tunnels and corridors, and is surrounded by high walls. For a moment, you forget that you're in the "black continent" and you will be transported to anywhere in Europe, it could be Scotland ... I do not know if it's a good thing or not.
Now that the holidays are coming up and dreams begin to form, I remember the days in Turmi, a city in southern Ethiopia, Hamer Tribe, which in a few years has grown due to the tourists who come and stay in this town as their "home base" to discover the lands of the different tribes. One would think that because It is a tiny village, there are no services and there is still to come after a few hours of driving tracks, ... But they are constructing roads, so you can reach Hamer ... Until last year, Turmi was a hidden corner, with a couple of camps to accommodate travellers. Some with western clothing and most with their own arrangements. All around, the land is dotted with acacias, shrubs, and dry river beds, sandy and wide, through which the Hamer come and go, or even dig in the sand to find water. If we sharpen our gaze, we can see interesting monkeys, with a white face and tail and the rest of the body black, back on top of the tallest trees ... Very close to Turmi are some small villages. After asking permission, we saw how they bring the cattle in the evening, and we went out there and have some contact with this tribe of great beauty, proud look, not aiming to sell some of their gourds, wooden stools they carry with them everywhere to sit if they get tired, or necklaces ... Children, yes, you hold their hands to accompany them and they even fight each other because no one wants to run out to take the hand of a white. They play, they look at you, you try to give them entangle some birr (Ethiopian currency) ... And the evening is falling, with those colors so magnificent that are only found in places where nature is king. The acacias give us those pictures typical of Africa, the heat is leaving (and mosquitoes come, of course), and I feel great, eager to save the images on my retina and in my memory, and look forward to returning soon I left.