The gentle magic of Ethiopia

The name Lalibela should be as famous as Petra. It has been said that if Lalibela were anywhere but Ethiopia, the small city high in the Lasta mountains would be considered one of the Wonders of the World.

Lalibela was the reason I went to Ethiopia. Images of its churches have intrigued me for years — and in person, they did not disappoint.

The 11 Christian churches, still in use, were carved down out of solid rock some time in the 13th century; to this day no one is sure how. Each is unique and fascinating. Many are linked through tunnels or passages, forming something like an underground village.

There’s the gigantic Bet Medhane and the relatively tiny Bet Abba Libanos, and the cave-church Bet Mercurios, which is possibly 1,400 years old. But the crown jewel is the stunning Bet Giyorgis (Church of St. George), which stands alone, 15 metres high and carved in the shape of a cruciform tower, in its own private sunken courtyard. Each church comes with its own priest, who, for a small fee, will pose for pictures holding a golden cross, an ancient parchment, or even a modern umbrella.

But Ethiopia is more than Lali­bela. This ancient country of friendly people and stunning vistas is also home to Tissassat Falls, Lake Tana, Gondar, Bahir Dar, the Rift Valley and Axum. Read More

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