Lalibela Rock -hewn Churches
The isolated churches of Lalibela are set high in the mountain
of lasta, and is world renowned for it’s rock-hewn churches
sometimes considered one of the “eight wonders of the world.″
It is arguably the one place in Ethiopia that no tourist should
miss! Lalibela was the capital of the zegwe Dynasty, which
ruled over Ethiopia from the 10th century to the mid 13th
century. Rumor has it that the Lalibela Empire was formed
because the “arc of the covenant″ in Axum was lost to Lalibela.
Lalibela set about gathering the world’s greatest craftsman and
artisans in order to crave the churches. Even before you visit
the churches, Lalibela is a strikingly singular town. The setting
alone is glorious. Perched at an altitude of 2,630m, among wild
craggy mountains and vast rocky escarpments, there is a stark
cathedral-like grandeur to Lalibela that recalls the Drakensberg
Mountains of South Africa and Lesotho.
The houses of Lalibela are of a design unlike anywhere else in
Ethiopia. Two-storey circular stone constructs that huddle in
an enormous mass over the steep slopes on which the town is
built. Bet Maryam is thought to have been the first church built
in Lalibela. Because of its association with the virgin, it
remains the most popular church in the complex among
Ethiopians. Smaller and less imposing than Medhane Alem , but
also a monolith, Bet Maryam has a more intimate and
elaborately carved interior, with carvings of the original
Lalibela cross and of the star of David with dense paintings on
parts of the roof. The Church is 13m high and its upper floor
has seven rooms used to shore church treasures.
Gondar Fasil Ghebbi & Debra
Gondar Fasil Ghebbi & Debre Birhan Selassie.
Gondar is one of the main tourist attractions on the northern
historically circuit, best known for its 17th-century castles and
palaces as well as the fantastically decorated church of Debra
Birhan Selassie. Gonder was founded in 1635 by Emperor
Fasilidas and was the imperial capital for 250 years prior to the
rise of Emperor Tewodros.
The Fasil Ghebbi lies at the heart of modern Gondar and gives
the city much of its character. This enclosure holds many
castles with the most impressive castle being the original one.
This first castle was built by Fasilidas Circa 1640. It is made of
stone and shows a unique combination of Portuguese and even
Indian influences.. Than in the mid 20th century it was
partially restored until 1999 when the castle was more fully
restored, using the original construction methods, with
UNSECO funding. Construction lasted until 2002.
Debre Birhan Selassie
Today there are said to be 44 churches in Gondar, at least
seven of which date from Fasilidas’s rule.
Debre Birhan Selassie, or Mountain of the enlightened Trinity, was one of
these churches. Founded in the 1690s by Iyasu it was the most
important church in the 18th century due to the fact that was
the site of many royal burials. Debre Birhan Selassie is also the
only one of these seven that was left completely untouched
during an attack by the Dervish or Mahdist of Sudan in 1888.
Debre Birhan Selassie was saved from the Dervish attacks by
the intervention of a swarm of bees... or so they say in Gondar.
Axum is recognized as the first empire of Africa and the 3rd
largest Empire of the world!
Myth has it that King Solomon of Israel and Queen Sheba had a
son named King Menelek. King Menelek was the first king of
the Empire which created a mysterious lineage between
Ethiopia and Israel. Rumor has it that the “arc of the covenant″
from Mount Sinai was passed on to Ethiopia which gave the
Empire ruling power and long roots to the Old Testament.
Regardless of anthropological fact from fiction, the imperial
capital of the Axum Empire was created at least three centuries
before the birth of Christ and was the first African nation to
Axum is also home to the cathedral of Tsion Maryam which
was founded in the 4th century. Tsion Maryam is Ethiopia’s
oldest Christian sanctuary and is still regarded as the spiritual
home of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. Ethiopian’s first
church, the original Maryam Tsion church, which consisted of
12 temples, has been destroyed probably around the 16th -
century. This illustrious nation formally recognized as
“Abysinnia″ was also home to the first acceptance of Islam in
the 7th century, where the 4th holiest city of Muslim faith,
Harar, is located.
Tigraiy rock-hewn churches
Tigrai, Ethiopia’s northern-most
region, has more than 120 rock-hewn
churches. Famous Lalibela boasts 12
The rock churches are found in
Gheralta, Tsaeda Imba, Atsbidera, and
other parts of Eastern Tigrai. Some of
the churches are dated as early as 5th
century – 800 years before Lalibela, others were built, or rather
carved, much later – and they are dated around 15th – 17th c.
These churches are the greatest of the historical – cultural
heritages of the Ethiopian people.
Gheralta is the home of a quarter of the rock churches, some
famous for their stone workmanship, ancient paintings and old
manuscripts, and others known for their magnificent view and
difficult ascent. Such great churches as Abune Yemata (Guh),
Mariam Korkor, Debretsion (Abune Abraham), Yohannes
Maequddi, Abune Gebre Mikael and Selassie Degum are in the
very heart of Gheralta, making it the home of rock churches of
Tigrai. The scenery of Gheralta is spectacular. The view of the
graceful Mount Gheralta and the far-reaching Hawzien plain is
a rare combination of extraordinary beauty.
Debre Damo Rock Cherechs.
The monastery at Debre Damo dates
back to Axumite times and boasts the
oldest standing church in the country.
The monastery is positioned on top of
the 2800 m high amba (mountain with
flat top). Only males can enter this
monastery. The only way to enter is
to be hoisted on the rope tied to your
waist up the 24 m cliff. A visit to Debre Damo Monastery is
included in our complete historic route by car.
Bahir Dar, Lake Tana & Blue Nile Falls.
Bahir Dar is home to Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia.
Lake Tana gives the town a tropical feel that is more like the
southern valley town of Awassa than it is to northern Ethiopia.
With its beautiful plant life and pretty lakeside vistas Bahir Dar
is a very attractive town. It is also the base for visits to the
Blue Nile falls and Lake Tana’s many monasteries.
The Blue Nile Falls Locally called Tis Abay (smoke of the Nile)
or Tis lsat (water that smokes) the Blue Nile Falls is best known
for the volume of water that pours from the 45m high rocks,
especially during the rainy season. Above the waterfall the Nile
is 400m wide while below the falls, the gorge is estimated to be
The Lake Tana Monasteries There are more than 20
monasteries that cover the islands and peninsulas on Lake
Tana. Most were built under the rule of Anda Tsion during the
14th century. A few, notably Narga Selassie and Meteli Fasilidas
are even older and date back the Gonderine period.
Harar Jugol, the Fortified HistoricTown (HOLY CITY)
Harar is one of the most impressive Ethiopia’s historic destinations
pulls remoteness and ancient history as part of the long and
colorful existence of the country, Ethiopia.
Located strictly East of Ethiopia it has survived since the late first
millennium BC being a strong hold of Islam. Happen to be a strong
Muslim sultanate, Harar has been ruled by seventy two successive
Imams since its formation i.e. 1900s till Mid 1500s through which
time quite unique, strong and authentic Muslim tradition was
created. As it has a vast territory, friendly tribes namely Adare,
Somali, Oromo and Argoba are the main settlers with all Muslim
It for long time had long trade relation with the Mediterranean and
Arab world and religious interaction with the Middle East over
Indian ocean and red sea which pays a great deal of contribution
for its Economic and especially religious growth. Indeed the
Sultanate has a lose but continuing contacts with the mid and
North Christian Kingdom of the country through trade till it defuses
and administration falls under the central governing Kingdom in
mid 1500s. From here onwards Harar has opened the second phase
in history being an ideal example of religious integrity with
brotherly Christians and survived a new mix of tradition sustained
to this day. Surrounding the old town, Harar today is a big capital
city in the Eastern part of Ethiopia.