Thursday, January 26, 2012

Stelae and Carved Rock Churches

After a rugged 12-hour drive, we arrived in Axum, the ancient capital of Ethiopia, and home to the "supposed" castle of the Queen of Sheba,

and ancient stelae, carved from a nearby granite mountain and erected by kings to mark their graves...

Across the street is St. Mary's church, a hideously ugly rebuild of an ancient church

and nearby, the building which supposedly holds the original Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant.

Next morning we flew to Lalibela, the site of the famous and fabulous monolithic carved churches, carved over a period of 27-28 years in the 10th century by King Lalibela. He supposedly received a vision from God, demanding he build a "New Jerusalem". The churches were each carved from a single piece of rock, starting at the top and working down. Truly magnificent!

Our guide showing us how the drum is used in the chanting

Sacred art

Carpets on the rock floor

And the resident priest..
Yesterday we visited EIGHT rock a few photos to show some of the many details

One of the churches was richly carved and frescoed...

The roof of the famous St. George's church...

Nuns and priests...(many of the churches are still active, after all these centuries!)

A LOT of precarious steps, up and down...

After the last of the churches, we walked the streets of Lalibela, on our way to a traditional coffee ceremony...

A beautiful Ethiopian woman performed the hour long ritual, which included toasting the beans over a charcoal brazier, enlisting the help of her ADORABLE 3-year-old daughter to grind the beans with cloves,

and serving us the delicious brew.
Lastly, we went to a surreal restaurant in the hills

run by a Scots woman and her Ethiopian business partner. A fascinating end to a long, long day! Today we fly to Addis Ababa (and wi-fi!) before we begin our trek to the south.

Location:Axum and Lalibela, Ethiopia

1 comment:

  1. That is all in ONE day?? Eight rock churches? I think I'd start to muddle them up. That little girl is three?! She is so gorgeous and looks older, maybe because of her elaborate hairstyle.

    Such a rich history in that area. But, you know, as I look at all of your photos, it really is arid and dry, isn't it? I get thirsty just looking at the countryside. :)