Thousands of years of history and some of the most important sites in Ethiopian Christianity sit alongside new buildings, roads and airports. Northern Ethiopia is beautiful and booming.
Opposite the only bank in Lalibela, one of the holiest places in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, is a small shop selling mattresses, piled up in the dust on the main road in this cross-shaped town.
The mattress-seller’s stereo system blasts Ethiopop from dusk well into the night; for much of the rest of the day, Lalibela is filled with the sound of children practising the chants that form a central part of orthodox Christian rituals. Sleepy and devout, this town is famous for its towering rock-hewn churches which legend says were carved in the 12th century with the help of angels. The church remains wealthy and powerful, and has recently started buying up hotels in the town, further cementing its dominance.