Friday, October 26: For the second day in a row, I am up early to catch a 7:40 a.m. flight. This time, we are leaving Addis Ababa for Lalibela in the north of Ethiopia. Locals say the drive to Lalibela takes several days because the roads are not good. Lucky for us, our flight is only an hour.
After we get off the plane, we drive through the countryside to reach Lalibela. We pass fields of tef, the grain used to make the spongy staple Ethiopian bread called injera.
We see the Mesket Escarpment, where multi-day trekking tours can be arranged.
We see children herding a menagerie of sheep, goats, donkeys and cows.
We see agricultural fields and tukuls, Ethiopian traditional cylindrical huts with cone-shaped roofs.
We see men, boys, and children carrying crops on their heads. One man rides horseback but most people just walk.
We arrive in the town of Lalibela and settle in briefly to the Mountain View Hotel Lalibela. (Mountain View Hotel Lalibela)
Then we head out to explore the rock-hewn churches of the town.
The rural town of Lalibela is famous for its churches carved out of rock. These churches are important in the history of rock-cut architecture. Though the exact dates they were carved are not certain, most are thought to have been built during the reign of King Lalibela, a member of the Zagwe Dynasty, during the 12th and 13th centuries. The churches are grouped together as such:
The Northern Group: Bet Medhane Alem, home to the Lalibela Cross and said to be the largest monolithic church in the world, is possibly a copy of St. Mary of Zion church in Aksum. It is linked to Bet Maryam (possibly the oldest of the churches), Bet Golgotha (known for its arts and said to contain the tomb of King Lalibela), Bet Mikael, the Selassie Chapel and the Tomb of Adam. Bet Meskel and Bet Danaghel, a semi-chapel and chapel.
The Western Group: Bet Giyorgis, said to be the most finely executed and best preserved church.
The Southeastern Group: Bet Amanuel (possibly the former royal chapel), Bet Merkorios (which may be a former prison), Bet Abba Libanos and Bet Gabriel-Rufael (possibly a former royal palace), linked to a holy bakery.