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 Rock-hewn churches of Lalibela

King Lalibela is credited with the foundation of the 11 rock-hewn churches in the 12th century. One of the world’s most incredible man-made creations, they are a lasting monument to man’s faith in God. Most travel writers describe these churches as the “eighth wonder of the world”. These remarkable edifices were carved out of a solid rock, in a region where the ragged landscape still protects the churches.

The beginning of rock-cut churches in Ethiopia is dated to the 6th century by the Nine Saints. This rock-church tradition is associated with the birth and burial places of Jesus Christ, which were a cave in Bethelem and carved rock in Gologotha, respectively. In addition to this symbolic importance, churches were built from rocks perhaps for their physical durability and long-lasting.

The prominent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are eleven in number and situated in three groups separated by the seasonal river Jordan. Churches of the first group are believed to have been built first and are usually visited first by many of the tourists. They are Bete Medhane-Alem, Bete Mariam, Bete Mesekel, Bete Denagel, Bete Golgotha and Bete Debre Sina. Churches of the second group are situated south of the Jordan River and comprise Bete Gabriel, Bete Amanuel, Bete Merkorios, and Bete Abba Libanos. In the third group, there is only one isolated church i.e Bete Giorgis. It is located a few minutes walk to the south west of both the first and second group of churches.

Axum and its ancient civilizations

Ethiopia’s most ancient city, and capital of one of the most glorious empires of the past, is one of the most illustrious links in the Historic Route. The 16th century Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion was built in the compound of an earlier 4th century church, and is the holiest church in Ethiopia. In its sanctuary is said to rest the original Ark of the Covenant. The churches and monasteries of Axum are richly endowed with icons, and some of the historical crowns of ancient Emperors

For a large number of years in ancient time, Axum had been served as a political and religious center of Ethiopia. It was the capital of the Axumite Kingdom and considered as the first well-known permanent capital in the history of the country. It has still a considerable symbolic role for the Ethiopian church and state. During its long history, Axum greatly contributed too many human developments. It has been a repository of tremendous archeological and historical treasures including the steel, the rock-tombs, temples, the palaces, the stone thrones and others. Today, you will find ‘sky scraper’ monolithic stelae carved and erected some 2000 years ago from single piece of granite. You will also see ruins of ancient royal palaces, tombs of kings, the bath of the Queen of Sheba, the old and new St. Mary’s churches

YEHA

Ethiopia’s earliest known capital, Yeha, is less than two hours’ drive from Axum through some dramatic highland scenery. As the birthplace of the country’s earliest high civilization, it is well worth visiting.

The ruins of this large, pre-Christian temple, erected around the fifth century BC, consist of a single roofless oblong chamber 20 meters (66 feet) along by 15 meters (50 feet) wide. The windowless 10 meters high walls are built of smoothly polished stones, some of them more than 3 meters long, carefully placed one atop the other without the use of mortar.

yeha sixth century BC, Ethiopia’s historic rout begins with a glance at the tantalizing remains of Yeha –the country’s earliest high civilization.

In a remote part of Tigray region, Yeha rests several hours drive from the more accessible city of Axum , the journey takes you on rough tracks through dramatic highland scenery and eventually ends in a beautiful and serene agricultural hamlet . It is there, close to a much more recent Christian church, that you may see the towering ruins of Yeha temple of the moon –built than 2,500 years ago, in Sabaen times.

The temple is an imposing rectangular edifice. Thought it has been long since its lost its roof and upper story, the ruins stand some twelve meters in height. As evening falls, the temple’s finely dressed and polished limestone reflects the glow of the setting sun with a warmth and brilliance that cannot be accidental. The huge, precisely fitted block from which the inward –inclining walls are formed seem to the bear out ancient opinion that Sabaean building could be filled with water without a single drop being lost

 

Gondar

Gondar was the 17th century capital of Ethiopia, and is notable for its Medieval Castles and churches. The city’s unique Imperial compound contains a number of Castles built between 1632 and 1855 by various Emperors who reigned during this period. These dramatic Castles, unlike any other in Africa, display richness in architecture that reveals the Axumite traditions as well as the influence of Arabia. Other treasures of Gondar include the 18th century palace of Ras Bet, the bath of Fasiledes, the ruined palace of Kusquam, and the church of Debre Berhan Selassie with its unique murals.


Bahirdar

Bahir Dar is a town set on the south-eastern shore of Lake Tana, where local fishermen still use papyrus boats. Here the Blue Nile creates “Smoking Water” an awe inspiring sight as it plunges into the gorge below. From Bahir Dar one must explore some of the ancient monasteries that have been built on the islands of Lake Tana, or on the many Islands. These include Dega Estephanos with its priceless collections of icons, as well as the remains of several medieval Emperors, Kebran Gabriel and Ura Kidane Mehret with its famous frescoes. Kebran Gabriel is the principal monastery visited by male tourists from Bahir Dar, with its impressive Cathedral-like building first built at the end of the 17th century. Dega Estephanos, which is also closed to women, is on the island in the Lake, and the monastery is reached by a very steep and winding path. Although the church is relatively new (only hundred years old), it houses a Madonna painted in the 15th century. However, the treasury of the monastery is a prime attraction, with the remains of several Emperors, as well as their robes and jewels.

Harar

The city of Harar is an ancient (1520) and holy city. Harar was an important trading center. The city is famous for its ancient buildings, its great city walls and as a center of Islamic learning (the city has 99 mosques). It is believed to be the fourth holiest city for Islam after Mecca, Medina & Jerusalem.

It is the fourth-holiest city of Islam, according to UNESCO, with 82 mosques tucked away in a maze of alleyways and gates so narrow you can get round only on foot. The city is like a jewel box, its whitewashed buildings splashed with turquoise, purple and aqua. Piles of spices glow in the sun and old women in bright silks serve cups of strong-scented coffee. Kites swoop from the parapets to seize hunks of goat and camel from the hands of butchers. Rows of tailors madly peddle their ancient machines in a street named after the sound they make, Girgir.

Harar’s two most famous residents were French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who spent much of the last 10 years of his life here as a coffee merchant, and Haile Selassie – or, to give him his formal title, His Imperial Majesty the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings, Elect of God. Selassie is a contentious figure, except among Rastafarians who still regard him as a god.

The biggest celebrities in Harar now, though, are the “hyena men” who gather outside the city’s crumbling walls at dusk. They bring buckets of meat and call to the creatures hulking in the shadows by name, feeding the hyenas with sticks, hands, even straight out of their own mouths.

Harari Home

Harari homes are unique and reminiscent of coastal Arab architecture. Bowls, dishes, and basketry are hung in stylized fashion on the wall, but all are functional.

The Hyena man

As evening falls, local men attract wild hyenas to the city in a bizarre spectacle as they bravely feed these dangerous scavengers.

The City Walls


The City Walls, and the narrow streets lined with traditional Harari gegar houses.

Rimbaud House


A fine building traditional house dating from the period when the French poet Rimbaud lived in Harar.

Tigray rock churches

Getting to the frescoed, 1,000-year-old cave churches of Ethiopia’s Gheralta Mountains requires climbing sheer rock walls and skirting cliff edges – all without so much as a rope.

With their sheer cliffs, surreal rock formations and vertical spires, northern Ethiopia’s Gheralta Mountains recall stretches of the southwestern United States’ red desert landscape. The primary difference: perched high and tucked away into these mountain cliffs are some of the country’s least visited rock-hewn Ethiopian Orthodox cave churches, some of which are more than 1,000 years old. The Gheralta cluster, located in Tigray Province, includes more than 30 structures

Abune Yemata is one of Gheralta’s rock-hewn churches. It can be reached from the historic town of Hawzien, turning off at the village of Megab, keeping the escarpment to one’s left. A 4 kms drive from Megab and a fijrther 30 minutes’ walk will bring you to the foot of the perpendicular rock mountains of Guh (name of the area) which appear as though they are pillars to the sky. The scenery is breathtaking

The church is carved on the cliff face of one of the mountains of Guh and there are no ropes, like at Debre Damo, for use in the ascent. You can find only footholds and handgrips in the rock face. Just before the entrance to the church there is a narrow ledge carved in the cliff from which one can view a sheer drop of approximately 800 to l000ft.

Debre Damo Monastery

Debre Damo monastery is situated on an isolated mountain in northern part of Tigray. It is unique compared with most Ethiopian monasteries. Debre Damo was built, in the 6th century AD, with curved wood panels, painted ceilings and walls dedicated to the legend of Saint (Abune) Aregawi. The history of Debre Damo is centered on the “Nine Saints” who came to Ethiopia from Syria to spread Christianity in the Tigray region. One of them was Saint Aregawi who settled on the mountain of Debre Damo. Debre Damo is only accessible by climbing up by a rope, which is made of “plaited leather”, lowered from the cliffs, which visitors tie around their waist and are then pulled up by a monk at the top of the cliffs. It is only accessible to men and male animals. Women and even female animals are forbidden to set a foot into the monastery, and must remain under the cliffs and pray from there.

ethiopia’s most holy sites of Debre Libanos monastery (110km ADD) founded in the 13th century by priest Tekla Haimanot ,today one of Ethiopia’s most renowned saints. The church has beautiful Stained glass windows, and contains mosaic figures, which is found in the facade and some interesting mural paintings by the well-known Ethiopian artist Afework Tekele

Afar (Danakil Depressions)

It is located in the Afar region of the country which is situated in the northern east part of the country. Geologically one of the most active spots on the Planet Earth, it is a vast expanse of deserts, lava and below sea level salt plains and lakes, active and extinct volcanoes along a south/north chain. The hottest average temperature on earth with an extremely salty lake (Lake Afrera) at 120 meters under, the sea level kept alive by many thermal springs feeding it. It is also the land of Australopithecus Afarensis (Lucy from Hadar, in Afar) which has three million years old ancestor and having all the characteristics of Homo Spines. With more than 30 active and dormant volcanoes, the Danakil Depression is a geological marvel. In stark contrast to the cool, temperate, Ethiopian highlands, it is one of the lowest, driest, and hottest places on earth. It boasts records including the hottest average annual temperature (48º C/118º F in the dry season) and lowest point (120 M below sea-level) on the African continent. But don’t let this deter you from visiting Danakil as the trip and this trip is full of adventure and surely one you will never forget.

The Danakil Dallol is located in the Afar region near to the Eritrean border. It is the hottest spot in the world and its truly is one of the most unique geological areas on earth. A strange and mysterious landscape scattered with noxious hot springs, frozen black-lava flows, and massive salt basins left over from ancient lakes – it is one of the most tectonically active places on the planet. Erta Ale, the region’s most-visited and active volcano, has maintained a permanent lava lake (one of 5 on the earth) for the past 120 years!

Erta Ale is located in the remote area of Afar Depression. It is a natural volcano. And a person can see the volcano lake from the volcano rim only 20m away, which be able to experience the whole staff physically. Usually, when visitors need to visit the volcano the preferable route is Mekele-Berhale-Dodum-Erta Ale, of course it is possible through Awash-Afdera-Erta Ale.
Thus, Arta Ale is the most active volcano in Africa and it is commonly visited by a number of tourists from all over the world..