Sometimes you stumble upon a sight so absolutely breathtakingly stunning that time stands still, all your senses frozen, your chatter cut off in mid sentence, just unable to take it all in !
Ethiopia did that for me- more precisely the rock cut church of Beta Giorgis at Lalibella.
Sure we dream about going there, we see the photos in all the travel mags for Ethiopia, read up as much as we can devour in preparation for the trip, endure horrendously long and boring flights, sponge rubber njeera bread, upset tummys, and crummy hotels that haven’t seen a plumber since they were built, but suddenly you’re actually there. And nothing has prepared you for it. Nothing could. Stunning!
These churches were not constructed, they were excavated. Commenced around early 1200AD, popular legend has it that they were built with the aid of angels. Hard to believe these were built with only hammer and chisels. Built by King Lalibella, to create a city of worship to avoid that long arduous journey to Jerusalem, it's now a World Heritage site worthy of being called the 8th Wonder of the World!
That morning we explored Lalibella’s western cluster of rock cut churches, starting at the largest Beta Methane Alem, spoilt somewhat by the steel scaffolding roofing structure built to protect it from the elements. Cut out of one city sized block of red sandstone it has 36 pillars outside and 36 inside all hand cut from the same rock. Connected to it by tunnels and walkways is Bete Maryam possibly the oldest of the churches. We clambered through those tunnels, and climbed their steep stairways.
My wife has just read this and remarked how she too remembers that moment, and just like myself being so struck with the power of Beta Giorgis.
However you do it, Ethiopia will reveal it's depth of history, it's colourful culture and people, amazing scenery and it will completely surprise you.
We spent 1 week independantly in Addis Ababa visiting a child we sponsor through Childfund NZ ,then travelled Ethiopia with Gap Adventures.
The above post, written by myself first appeared as a guest post here-www.luxurybackpacking.com/ a travel site for all those looking for inspiration, excitement and adventure!
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I have posted more photos here as they are just too good not to publish!
Thanks Kass for making me relive this experience!