Posts Tagged ‘tej’

Rock-hewn churches of Lalibela

We left the Oasis truck in Bahir Dar for a 6-night tour of Northern Ethiopia by bus. Although we left the truck, 20 of the 23 people on board opted to do the same tour, so it was the same crowd (mostly), but a different vehicle. We were in for a driving marathon, spending 43 hours on the bus and covering nearly 1200km in 7 days. We were on a mission to visit three significant destinations: Lalibela, home of the rock-hewn churches of Ethiopia, Axum, the ancient centre of the Axumite Dynasty, and the Simien Mountains National Park. Lalibela was our first stop on the loop, and the one that I was looking forward to the most. We would be visiting 11 churches there, each one carved by hand into the solid rock of the surrounding landscape. According to one of the guidebooks we read, these rock-hewn churches would be one of the 7 Wonders of the World, if only they weren’t in Ethiopia. I suppose what they mean by this is that the churches simply aren’t that well known outside of the country, and had they been in, say, Egypt (perhaps alongside the pyramids), they would likely have attracted much more attention, along with much larger crowds of tourists. The hidden advantage of the situation is that the churches are not yet overrun with outsiders and sightseers, and many of the churches are still functioning as they always have. We felt like an extremely large and unwieldly group as we made our way through the small underground passageways that connected the buildings, but we felt (perhaps paradoxically) fortunate not to have to share the sites with any other large and unwieldly groups. Such is the joy of visiting a tourist attraction not yet discovered by tourists!