The Wonders of Ethiopia

The baths of the Queen of Sheba, rock churches carved by angels and the Blue Nile falls — Ute Junker finds herself unprepared for the wonders of Ethiopia.

IMAGINE this. You have never seen a picture of the Great Pyramid of Giza, nor has anyone ever told you about it. Then one morning, someone takes you for a short drive, and shows you this astonishing monument. How would you describe your reaction? Amazement? Disbelief? Gobsmacked? That’s pretty much how I feel standing above the church of Bet Giyorgis at Lalibela.

Before we get to Lalibela, a dusty hamlet in the Ethiopian highlands, my guide explains we’ll be visiting 11 churches carved out of the cliffs by the legendary King Lalibela. I’m expecting something similar to Petra, the famous city carved into cliffs in Jordan’s desert. I couldn’t be more wrong.

When you visit Bet Giyorgis – St George’s church – you approach not from the side, but from above. The builders of this church didn’t tunnel sideways into the rusty red rock face they started where we were standing, then dug down an astonishing 15 metres to excavate a church out of the heart of the rock. To increase the degree of difficulty, they formed the church in the shape of a giant crucifix. Read more:

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