Ethiopia is a country unlike any other in Africa. It has a rich history, dating back from Biblical times, a unique culture, unique food and a it's own calendar.
The northern part of Ethiopia is a highland country. It has become Christian in a very early stage and has stayed that way even when the Islam spread through the region. The Ethiopian highland became a Christian island in a Muslim sea, or better, in the Muslim desert lands surrounding it. Still on the Julian calendar, packed with myths and stories and cut off from the rest of Christianity the religion has an almost medieval feel about it.
Lalibela and Leddeth
Lalibela’s eleven rock-hewn churches are all built within one century during the reign of king Lalibela. There are legends about help from Angels and others about help from the Temple-knights. In and around these churches that are cut out from the bedrock so the roofs are at ground level, 70.000 mostly white clad pilgrims gather every year for the celebration of Christmas. Starting in the evening, mass continues well into the following day. The scenery, the chanting, the people and the colorful procession of the priests take you hundreds of years back in time.
Another place filled with stories and legends. The queen of Sheba, large steles, even bigger than the ones the Egyptians made, ruins of palaces, underground tombs, ancient and modern churches and yes, even the Ark of the Covenant is in town.
On the road
On the road you'll pass through a lot of smaller places like Machew, Mekkele, Wukro, and see monasteries, landscapes and churches on the way. And the beautiful Simien mountains are a great place for a trekking.
Gondar and Timkat
Gondar features a large compound filled with medieval castles, more legends and some finely decorated churches, like Debra Berhan Selassie. It also has nice but noisy bars, some with traditional dance and music (not for tourists, the real thing). The town was founded by Emperor Fasilidas around 1635, who also build Fasilidas bath, a rectangular pool filled with holy water at Timkat (epiphany).
At Timkat singing can be heard around midday coming from the many churches of Gondar. Priests emerge witch scepters in their hands and shaded by decorated umbrella’s. One of the priests carries the churches replica of the 10 commandments from the ark on his head. Following the priests are groups of people in home made robes singing and dancing and around the groups there are shouting gangs of adolescents who appear more like gangs or football supporters then as religious people.
The streams melt together and in the end there is one huge procession, heading towards Fasilidas bath. There the people pray the whole night. Early in the morning after more lengthy prayers and blessings people jump in the basin and start throwing (holy but not too clean) water at the people gathered around the bath.
Shot on slidefilm