Happy Monday Everyone! I hope everyone had a great weekend. I finally ventured outside the city by myself and headed to Lalibela. Lalibela is the second most holy city in Ethiopian Orthodox church. It was established by King Lalibela sometime after 1187 AD. The King built Lalibela to be the new Jerusalem since “old” Jerusalem was captured in 1187.
The amazing thing about the 13 churches of Lalibela are that they weren’t built, they were carved from stone. The outside is carved from the top to the bottom and the insides are carved from the bottom to the top. When you think about it (and see it), it really absolutely amazing.
The church above and below is St. George, the most famous of all the Lalibela churches. It is a monolithic church meaning is is freestanding and carved out of one rock.
I can’t tell you have mesmerizing it is to stand in front of this beautiful building and think about it being carved out of stone. There is so much detail and precision in each building and to think it was all done with hammers and chisels.
Each church is unique and has it’s only special characteristics. I love all the windows and arches of this church in the Eastern Group.
My guide Abby told me each person adopts a church as his own. It the church he or she prays in and takes care of.
This is me outside of Abby’s church. He insisted on taking a picture so I would remember him and his church.
In each church, there is a priest that sits and guards the church. This is the priest in St. Mary’s church. He offered to pose for a picture.
The churches of Lalibela are obviously old and prone to damage both naturally and by man. The Italians paid to have these covering placed over many of the churches to preserve the their roofs from the elements. They aren’t very pretty but they seem to do the job.
Lalibela is located in the mountains of Amhara which are almost 10,000 ft above sea level. This is the view from my room at the Mountain View Lodge.
So, are we thinking about a visit to Lalibela? If so, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Wear sturdy shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Shoes are not allowed inside the churches so you are constantly taking them off and on.
2. It’s hot and sunny there but there are almost no toilets around. I suggest adding hydration tablets to your water so you don’t have to drink as much.
3. Ladies, cover those shoulders and legs.
4. You can do it in a day depending when you arrive. I got in at 8:30am and spent the night. I was done with my tour by 6:30. We had a 3 hour break at lunch. If there is a 6pm flight to Addis, I’d take that. There isn’t much to do in Lalibela beyond the churches.
5. Get a guide. I know, I’m not really a guide person either but it’s worth it. Entrance in the churches is 350 birr (about $20) so for a little more you’ll get a history lesson and more importantly, someone to help you navigate all the rocky paths and show you the shortcuts and passageways between churches.
6. Mind the altitude. It’s really high and if you aren’t used to it, you’ll be huffing and puffing after a few uphill steps.
7. They don’t tell you this but you should be in good shape to tackle the churches. There is a lot of uphill hiking, climbing over rocks and negotiating steep stone steps. Below is an example of one of the easiest “stairways” we had to negotiate.
Lalibela was the perfect weekend trip. I got some exercise, learned a ton and got to take in these amazing example of rock architecture.