Lalibela Ethiopia
Up Axum Ethiopia
Postcards from:

 


Las Vegas Nevada
Algeciras  Spain
Rabat
Morocco
Madrid Spain
Yaounde Cameroon
Douala Cameroon
Addis Ababa Ethiopia
Lalibela Ethiopia
Axum Ethiopia
Gondar Ethiopia
Bangkok Thailand
Las Vegas Nevada


 

 


Lalibela Ethiopia: Bete Giyorgis or Church of St. George is the iconic view for the region and best known of the eleven rock-hewn churches.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Details of sculptured windows in the wall of one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.

Lalibela Ethiopia: This yellow clad priest sat reading his "New Testament" Bible in Amharic. With gestures I indicated my interest in his activities and he responded by showing my his book... followed quickly by opening his yellow robe to show me a tear in his coat and gestures easily understood as a request for money... breaking the spell of an otherwise "holy" encounter.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is the first of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region I found in my explorations of the area..


Lalibela Ethiopia: First view of the first of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another view of the first church I found of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Details of sculptured pillars along the wall of one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. Notice the metal support poles holding the protective covers over most of the archeological excavations.


Lalibela Ethiopia: At certain times of the year water floods some of the numerous tunnels and trenches which connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Small tombs like this one pock the walls of trenches and tunnels around one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: That narrow slit is at least twenty feet high and is the entrance to a dark tunnel going to one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Here is a closer view of that narrow slit which is at least twenty feet high and is the entrance to a dark tunnel going to one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Looking through that narrow slit which is at least twenty feet high and leads to yet another tunnel going to one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: The deep trench continues on the other side of that narrow slit going to one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another of the many deep trenches connecting the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another of the many tunnels connecting the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Details of sculptured windows in the wall of one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region as seen from the entry tunnel into the trench surrounding the sculptured church.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Details of sculptured windows in the wall of one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Entrance to the $45 Cliff View Hotel which would have suited my needs except for the fact they could not provide Internet access. Fortunately, the Mountain View Hotel sat nearby and a steep cobblestone pathway connected the two properties. This hotel also became a way-point on the path over to the Ben Abeba Restaurant I enjoyed a couple times.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Flags representing the nationalities of current guests at the $64 Mountain View Hotel where I stayed three nights.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Entry view of the $64 Mountain View Hotel where I stayed three nights. Internet WiFi could only be used in the lobby and then only occasionally as the server failed frequently. Breakfast consisted of coffee, juice, brick hard, stale toast with jam and an omelet when the staff felt like providing it. Dining room service needs drastic changes to meet Western standards.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Sign does not sit at the entry road for the $64 Mountain View Hotel where I stayed three nights. Following it got me to the very nice $45 Cliff View Hotel not far from the Mountain View which had no Internet connections. A foot path connected the two.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Artistic thistle patch on the dirt road connecting the hotel and city center.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Entry view of the $64 Mountain View Hotel where I stayed three nights. This is purported to be the best the area has to offer and the architecture certainly deserves praise, but best stops there! The rooms are just adequate and the dining room poorly managed, though the views of the valley are spectacular.


Lalibela Ethiopia: View of the $64 Mountain View Hotel where I stayed three nights as seen from the dirt road connecting it with the center of the village some two kilometers distant. There are no cabs here nor any ATMs. Dollars or Euros can be changed at the lone bank in town and some hotels will provide local currency on your credit card for a hefty 10% fee.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Planter box as seen from my room in the $64 Mountain View Hotel where I stayed three nights. The spectacular view of the valley below made up for other numerous deficiencies in the hotel.


Lalibela Ethiopia: View of the extraordinary Ben Abeba Restaurant in the distance on the far left of the ridge as seen from my room in the $64 Mountain View Hotel where I stayed three nights.


Lalibela Ethiopia: View of the valley below to the West as seen from my room in the $64 Mountain View Hotel where I stayed three nights.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Little foot paths like this one weave their way through the many village neighborhoods around the tourist areas. Visitors are generally welcome to discretely explore. Some dwellings are simple modern stone constructions like these; others are clusters of the round thatched huts characteristic of more rural areas.


Lalibela Ethiopia: "Night clubs" like this one are scattered throughout the areas frequented by tourists. Some are not much more than four crude posts enclosed by corrugated iron sheets, but all promise to entertain one way or another. Mention of the traditional coffee ceremony is common... and easily performed with little fancy equipment.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Here one of the swarm of boys takes notice of the white foreigner and his little camera, yelling out "Hello, hello. Welcome!" like an echo of the many other greetings before and after.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This young teenager worked on shaping a walking stick for many minutes while I discretely followed his efforts with a sharp edged stone as I imagined his ancestors must have done in ancient times past. He deftly cut the end of the pole cleanly and scraped the surface smooth with the stone tool. I felt privileged to witness this stone age performance here in 2012.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Local people as well as tourists shop for clothing. Typical scene along the main paved road that runs along the area where all the rock-hewn churches are located.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Religious artifacts and souvenirs along the main paved road that runs along the area where all the rock-hewn churches are located. Stylized wooden crosses of all sizes are a popular item for tourists.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Local people as well as tourists shop for clothing. Typical scene along the main paved road that runs along the area where all the rock-hewn churches are located.


Lalibela Ethiopia: These ladies quietly enjoyed their lunch in the shade of a resting area near one of the canopy covered stone churches. Using injera as both food and an eating "utensil" they wrapped the thin sheets of the spongy bread around a central pile of vegetables to bring it to their mouths.


Lalibela Ethiopia: No one takes fuel for granted here. This guy is carrying bundles of firewood, a scene repeated endlessly throughout my stay in the area. People of all ages, both male and female participate in this essential task.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Their job done, this lady leads her donkeys home for another load.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Local people as well as tourists shop for clothing. Typical scene along the main paved road that runs along the area where all the rock-hewn churches are located.


Lalibela Ethiopia: The city, small as it is draws rural villagers to the resources of the "big city." Villagers descend on Lalibela and its markets from all directions. Some come here for medical treatment in the area's only hospital. Anyone with a real emergency and the necessary resources would quickly fly out to more modern facilities in Addis Ababa.


Lalibela Ethiopia: One of the typical villages surrounding the main archeological area. I wandered through such areas with impunity, generally without any indication residents resented such intrusions. Actually, quite a few people went out of their way to greet me with friendly, though limited English phrases like: "Hello... Welcome... Welcome to Lalibela... Welcome to Thiopia..."... silent "E."


Lalibela Ethiopia: Locally produced clothing on display along the main paved road next to the archeological site entrance.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Local people as well as tourists shop for clothing. Typical scene along the main paved road that runs along the area where all the rock-hewn churches are located.


Lalibela Ethiopia: The street markets are popular with local people as well as tourists.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Aerial photo of the Rift Valley during our short flight from Addis Ababa to Lalibela. The striated rifts are clearly visible for most of the distance along the route.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another aerial photo of the Rift Valley seen during the short flight out of Addis Ababa.


Lalibela Ethiopia: And still another view of the Rift Valley during our short flight from Addis Ababa to Lalibela.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Most of the products on sale near the archeological site are designed to appeal to the foreign tourists.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is the first close up evidence of rock-hewn construction discovered as I approached the main archeological area with it's permanent protective canopies covering the excavations.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another example of unfinished of rock-hewn construction discovered as I approached the main archeological area with it's permanent protective canopies covering the massive excavations.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Their job done, this lady leads her donkeys home for another load.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Visitors must follow trenches like this one to locate the entrance to each church of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Details of sculptured windows in the wall of one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Details of wooden doors covering the entrances in the wall of one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Tunnels like this one connect pairs of churches of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Details of sculptured pillars along the wall of one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Details of sculptured pillars along the wall of one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Tunnels and deep trenches connect most of the churches to one another. The flight of stairs carved into the stone here goes to one of the eleven rock-sculptured churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another of the many entry tunnels connecting the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: At certain times of the year water floods some of the numerous tunnels and trenches which connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Bridges have been erected over some of the numerous tunnels and trenches which connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Numerous tunnels and trenches connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: There is a lot of sculptured stone not directly connected with any of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Details of sculptured pillars along the wall of one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. Notice the metal support poles holding the protective covers over most of the archeological excavations.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Looking down into the trench surrounding one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Looking down into the trench surrounding the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: First view seen by visitors of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Closeup view of walls of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: View of the trench leading to the entrance of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: View of the entrance of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Two other impatient tourists waiting for the reopening after lunch of the stone structure near the entrance of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.
 


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another view of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. I took a lot of photos as I circumambulated this iconic structure as I'll never be here again.


Lalibela Ethiopia: The roof of the church is level with the surrounding ground here at the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: From another angle we look at the top of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. I took a lot of photos as I circumambulated this iconic structure as I'll never be here again.


Lalibela Ethiopia: First view seen by visitors of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another slightly different view of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. I took a lot of photos while I circumambulated this iconic structure as I'll never be here again.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Looking back towards the entry path leading to the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.

 

10 January 2012

 

Hello from Lalibela Ethiopia,

Before I came to Ethiopia I'd never heard of Lalibela. A friend pointed out that none of his maps make any reference to the place at all. But, most of us have seen images of at least one of the churches hacked from massive stone outcroppings, the iconic cruciform structure shown in the first picture to the left. Many devout Christians of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church consider this area particularly sacred, making it a major pilgrimage destination several times a year. Why the place is not more famous internationally is no doubt due to its remote location and lack of transportation infrastructure. Foreign tourists are just beginning to discover the unusual archeological attractions and a number of new upscale hotels are under construction in response to the increasing demand. For an informative introduction to amazing Lalibela watch the full length History Channel documentary or this short UNESCO video . As you have no doubt noticed, I'm not wild about repeating reams of encyclopedic materials when a short hyperlink will do the job better. I wandered around most of the eleven churches during my three night stay in the area and took a lot of pictures. Later I discovered this video record made by another visitor; it is an accurate 30 minute recreation of what it was like to climb around the ruins.

Interestingly, I'll remember the Lalibela area not so much for the Christian churches King Lalibela  ordered built in obedience to heavenly commands received during a poison induced vision, but for the authentic Ethiopian villages and rural culture which have survived the onslaught of Third Millennium civilization and the extraordinary Ben Abeba Restaurant developed by a charming expat Scottish woman. Mind you the rock churches are phenomenal, but not unique in the world. During a visit to Madras in southern India during March 1986 I saw similar monolithic stone structures. Ancient Indian stone carvers created massive Hindu temples some five or six centuries earlier than those here in Ethiopia. The Dravidian Architecture of southern India not only predate the excavations of Lalibela, but in many ways is more elaborate and extensive than the works found here.

Located in the Amhara ethnic division, Lalibela is home to many traditional villages, some of which extend right up to and into the archeological compounds. All are well established and likely have been here in their present form for eons. Today's inhabitants carry on with their normal activities and tolerate the foreign tourist intrusions mostly with good humor, though on at least one occasion an old woman scowled at me as I lingered to study her walled enclosure and photograph a flock of neighborhood children practicing their few words of "greeting/begging" English.

While Lalibela township with its population of about 15000 is small by most standards, it is the "big" city for rural people living around it within a hundred kilometers. Country people regularly walk great distances into the town to shop and for other services not available in their villages. I observed a group of twenty or so nearly naked skinny young men in their late teens or early twenties carrying a litter with an old woman on it. One of the local people explained they would be on their way to the hospital and might have walked all day in their bare feet to reach the town, explaining why there were so many guys when only four were needed to carry the litter at any one time. As I paused to watch the urgent, but solemn procession, I resisted the temptation to photograph this rural Ethiopian ambulance operation out of respect for the grim faces filing by. While traditional healers provide most of the treatment for illnesses in Ethiopia, anyone who can afford it will first seek treatment in a modern medical facility, if possible. When that approach fails to produce satisfactory results most patients will then consult a traditional healer. Traditional healers are the first choice for the poorest as treatment is never withheld for lack of financial resources.

Travel exposes one to an extraordinarily broad spectrum of human activities and attitudes. It also brings into razor sharp focus the disparity between the "haves" and the "have nots" of this world. For the most part in much of Africa, the "rich" remain in deluxe enclaves out of sight of the poor... except where the poor have been employed to keep the enclaves functioning in a manner expected by the rich. One sees a lot of barbed wire atop the tall walls surrounding upscale homes throughout Africa. I'm still sorting out the lessons learned and trying to fit them into the context of my own life, hopefully in a way that makes future writing more relevant.

People in this part of the world are still very poor by Western standards, but here in Lalibela I saw no evidence of hunger. Large families do seem to be the norm, however. During my bleeding heart liberal days, starting as an undergraduate at UCB, I became convinced overpopulation eventually would lead to worldwide famine and did my part as a member of Planned Parenthood, People-to-People and Population Reference Bureau. As the years went by and ol' Malthus' dire predictions failed to materialize, I modified my views modestly.

Now, worldwide starvation seems unlikely even in the southern hemisphere where I have been traveling lately, but the growing hoards of desperately poor people I've seen likely means an ever increasing gap between the super rich and dirt poor. My best guess is that this inequity inevitably will lead to violent conflict between the classes... starting in the countries where the disparity is greatest... probably the United States! The Occupy Wall Street type movements, ea: leaderless/leaderful could evolve a different  scenario... perhaps less violent... hopefully less violent, but still with a lot of greedy rich people very upset by the waves of rebellious protests complicating their lives. The few vocal super rich who acknowledge the unfairness and self defeating nature of the inequities are far outnumbered by the quiet clutches of obscenely and conspicuously indulgent wealthy huddling together in their opulent private clubs and conspiring to protect the status quo at any cost. Democracy is no protection from the power elite when only the ultra-rich are represented in the halls of government.

Barack Obama's State of the Union speech offered a glimmer of hope that Congress might be shamed into political action leading to a more equitable distribution of wealth... without destroying the amazing power of Capitalism to create wealth and elevate the general well being of all. Even here in Africa, which by most measures places people at the bottom of of the economic spectrum, human beings are vastly better off than they were a couple centuries ago. Yes, most people still use "primitive" traditional healers, but modern medical alternatives are available; there still is hunger, but international aid reduces the likelihood of actual famine; most people walk, but wheeled transportation and graded roads speed delivery of many things. Capitalism itself is not the problem, but we need to find ways of limiting the inequitable consequences of unrestrained naked greed.

For the first seventy-five years of my life I could never imagine my fellow citizens engaging in another violent internal revolution. After all, this is a democracy and the people collectively decide the fate of our nation. What a farce. How could I have allowed myself to be so naively deceived. Of course I heard all the complaints and the catchy aphorisms: "America has the best government money can buy." But, the reality didn't sink in until I watched the George Bush juggernaut play itself out: someone else is actually pulling the strings behind the scenes - our government is a bunch of puppets being managed by puppeteers out of view, beyond the reach of any man made law! ... because they have nearly ALL the money and the power it can buy!

Things are not that much different from the absolute monarchies of old where the king had all of the power, except today the identities of the "kings" are buried behind impenetrable information barriers. During the French Revolution everyone knew who the villains were because they lived in palaces and wore crowns. Today the real villains wear blue jeans and pretty much stay out of sight (I'm thinking of Steve Jobs here, though it is hard to include many rich folks like him in the ranks of the super rich villains.)

The $65 Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa took less than an hour and arrived at the tiny airport about eight thirty in the morning, a perfect time to start exploring any new area. The town itself is some 35 kilometers from the airport, too far to walk so I joined the fifteen other passengers from our flight in a shuttle van bound for the town instructing the driver to let me out at the edge of any civilization. Following my well established habit I wanted to explore it on foot. Paying the 70 Birr (about $4) fare I hopped out and began hunting for a decent hotel. The village is scattered along perhaps a kilometer of the main paved road from the airport, but that soon becomes dirt as it continues on into the wilderness.

The first hotel I spotted is located at the very heart of what might loosely be called city center, right next to the only bank in the area. There is no ATM anywhere in this part of Ethiopia, but the bank will provide currency exchange if you have Euros or Dollars. The Aman Hotel clearly meets my minimum standards; clean with working everything in the room, breakfast included and WiFi with some assistance and fiddling. All of this for $40 for the “luxury” double bedrooms. Encouraged, I trudged on looking for more lodges to get a fuller idea of what the region had to offer. 

The Cliff Edge Hotel looked interesting a short distance off the main road. At $45 the clean modern rooms would have sufficed, but the hotel had no access to the Internet. As I prepared to leave, the receptionist pointed out the Mountain View Hotel a short distance from his place would have WiFi and aimed me in the direction I should walk. The information I’d found on the Internet put it at the top of my possibilities list so I eagerly hiked the hundred meters to the ultra-modern wood and glass structure not far away Inside, the lobby is even more impressive than is the view from outside. When told the room rate would be $64 including breakfast and that the hotel did have Wifi and would honor my VISA credit card for payments, I nearly tore off my hip pocket getting the wallet out.

Sometime after checking into the Mountain View Hotel here I noticed the unusual “hobbit castle” on a hill to the north not more than a kilometer distant. Later, walking over to the Ben Abeba Restaurant I discovered a totally unexpected delight: an ultra-modern gourmet restaurant with unobstructed views of the surrounding area. Susan, a sixty something Scottish woman decided several years ago that Lalibela needed at least one gourmet restaurant and found an Ethiopian partner who agreed to help her develop the Ben Abeba Restaurant. When confronted by my suspicion she was a former hippie like me, she coyly changed to subject. She and her partner run the restaurant like a cooking school, employing a couple dozen eager young people from the area and training them in the art of gourmet cooking, fine dining service and manners.

Wandering about the breezy open architecture I eventually discovered the ultra modern kitchen with its gleaming stainless steel appliances unseen from most locations around the unusual restaurant design. Well trained local young employees observe modern hygiene as they practice the art of gourmet cuisine. The owner, Susan calls them her "chefettes." Both meals I enjoyed at the restaurant made me want to return, especially considering the very reasonable prices and gracious hospitality.  A visit to this restaurant alone would justify a trip to Lalibela!

There are no actual super markets in the village, but a number of little stores carry signs claiming to be “super” markets where thirsty tourists can buy dusty packages of biscuits, bottled water, CocaCola, or chocolate.  On one of my CocaCola runs the owner of a hole-in-the-wall supermarket handed me a bottle labeled “CoffeeCola” in response to my request for a Coke. Seeing the name and thinking it a new variant of regular Coke I bought the bottle and discovered a wonderful new flavor, though not bottled by CocaCola. I have since learned CocoCola had a coffee product called Coke Blak, but they discontinued it after a marketing trial of several years. Flies continue to be a big nuisance, though no one else seems to take any notice of the pestering.

I have my $45 Ethiopian Airlines ticket and will be heading for Axum near the Ethiopian-Eretria border to the north shortly. More when Internet access again becomes a reality.

Peace,

Fred L Bellomy

 


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another view of the Ben Abeba Restaurant as seen along the half kilometer dirt entry road near the junction with the dirt road leading to the Mountain View Hotel where I stayed.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This young man seems to have his hand in a plaster cast. I took the picture to show how people typically carry their belongings in bundles hanging from walking sticks over their shoulder.


Lalibela Ethiopia: My camera is never ignored, even by people engrossed in hard labor. These ladies trudge up steep hills carrying bundles of sticks from which they will make their cooking fires for a few days, a scene repeated endlessly throughout my stay in the area. People of all ages, both male and female participate in this essential task.


Lalibela Ethiopia: No one takes fuel for granted here. This guy is carrying bundles of firewood, a scene repeated endlessly throughout my stay in the area. People of all ages, both male and female participate in this essential task.


Lalibela Ethiopia: No one takes fuel for granted here. These ladies trudge up steep hills carrying bundles of sticks from which they will make their cooking fires for a few days, a scene repeated endlessly throughout my stay in the area. People of all ages, both male and female participate in this essential task.


Lalibela Ethiopia: The first time I saw an area covered with a layer of loose straw or dried grass I thought it must be a way to just cover the dirt. Later I learned it is a part of a solemn ritual incorporated in the traditional Coffee Ceremony practiced throughout Ethiopia. I have now witnessed several performances in hotels and airport departure lounges.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Obama is a very popular name in this part of Africa, too. Everyone brightens when the name is mentioned, usually making some complimentary comment about our president. In Kenya Barack Obama's grandfather is a member of a tribe that has never produced a president of Kenya, so a popular joke goes that members of the Luo tribe must immigrate to America to become president.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This photo is a good illustration of just how steep is the road that runs along the area where all the rock-hewn churches are located. This is near the main entrance to the loosely enclosed area and main ticket office where the 350 Birr or about $21 may be paid for the privilege of entering all of the eleven churches to see their dark cave-like interiors hacked out of the stone


Lalibela Ethiopia: Crowds of local people inspect merchandise along the main paved road that runs through the area where all the rock-hewn churches are located. When a foreign tourist appears, the greetings in English start... and the begging. Walking along the street I hear "Harrow, hello, hello sir, hey you..." and other variants like echos in a canyon. The small children are the most eager.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Religious artifacts like these stylized wooden crosses and other souvenirs along the main paved road that runs along the area where all the rock-hewn churches are located.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Locally produced clothing seems to be popular with tourists along the main paved road that runs along the area where all the rock-hewn churches are located.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Scene along the main paved road that runs along the area where all the rock-hewn churches are located. The merchandise is primarily aimed at foreign tourists, but the area also serves as a market for local people.


Lalibela Ethiopia: As I approached the main archeological area with it's permanent protective canopies covering the excavations boys like this one started hounding me to offer their services as guides. They had varying degrees of English language skills, but all exhibited enormous enthusiasm... probably motivated by the prospects of making BIG money for their services with the RICH foreign tourists.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Locally produced clothing seems to be popular with tourists along the main paved road that runs along the area where all the rock-hewn churches are located.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is my first view of rock-hewn structures as I approached the main archeological area with it's permanent protective canopies covering the excavations. This is one of the eleven churches located at the northern end of the cluster.


Lalibela Ethiopia: One of the typical villages surrounding the main archeological area. I wandered through such areas with impunity, generally without any indication residents resented such intrusions. Actually, quite a few people went out of their way to greet me with friendly, though limited English phrases like: "Hello... Welcome... Welcome to Lalibela... Welcome to Thiopia..."... Note the silent "E."


Lalibela Ethiopia: I watched this road gang composed of both men and women slowly carve a new graded turnoff road along the main road connecting the Mountain View Hotel and the center of town... and the main tourist area of rock-hewn churches. Every time I passed we exchanged smiles and greetings until the last day when the work ended.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Their job done, this lady leads her donkeys home for another load.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is the open fountain observation platform at the Ben Abeba Restaurant enjoyed by guests during the pleasant parts of the day. It also serves as the roof over the most unique enclosures for toilets below. Winding walkways spiral down to the lower level seemingly suspended in space: careful in the dark or after too many beers!


Lalibela Ethiopia: Pilgrims or priests approaching the entrance to one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Government approved guides lecture to groups of tourists near the entrance to one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Details of sculptured pillars along the wall of one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: One of the villages located immediately adjacent to one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Villagers walk the path along a wall enclosing one of the villages located immediately adjacent to one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: One of the surface entry points into underground tunnels connecting the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: One of the surface entry points into underground tunnels connecting the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: One of the surface entry points into underground tunnels connecting the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: At certain times of the year water floods some of the numerous tunnels and trenches which connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Local people climb steep paths that connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. Here a couple and their heavily loaded donkeys reposition the load.


Lalibela Ethiopia: From this high vantage point armed guards keep watch over the antiquities which are a part of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Local people climb steep paths that connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Local people climb steep paths that connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: On a hill off the tourist paths near one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region I came upon ancient graffiti carved into some of the large stones like this one. The metal peg in the rock might be a GPS marker.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Looking across the valley towards some of the ancient excavations that form a part of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Interesting tree sitting near one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. The dead branches above the green crown serve as roosting places for a variety of birds.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Bridges have been erected over some of the numerous tunnels and trenches which connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Numerous tunnels and trenches connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Looking down into the wide trench surrounding one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. People have build homes among some of the ruins like here.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Looking down into the wide trench surrounding one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. People have build homes among some of the ruins like here.


Lalibela Ethiopia: First view seen by visitors of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: One of the villages located immediately adjacent to one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Looking down into the trench surrounding one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Yet another view of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. I took a lot of photos as I circumambulated this iconic structure as I'll never be here again.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another view of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. I took a lot of photos as I circumambulated this iconic structure as I'll never be here again.


Lalibela Ethiopia: First view seen by visitors of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another view seen by visitors of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Ceremonial drum sitting in the trench surrounding the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Looking back towards the entry path leading to the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.

 


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another view seen by visitors of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another view seen by visitors of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another of the many tunnels connecting the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.

 

End

 

 

 

 


Lalibela Ethiopia: Ben Abeba Restaurant as seen from the arrival point along the half kilometer dirt entry road not far from the junction with the dirt road leading to the Mountain View Hotel where I stayed. Still under development, it is never-the-less more than ready to serve its guests with refinements unexpected outside Paris!


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is Susan, a sixty something Scottish woman who decided several years ago that Lalibela needed at least one gourmet restaurant and found an Ethiopian partner who agreed to develop the Ben Abeba Restaurant with her. When I confessed my suspicion she was a former hippie like me, she coyly declined to deny it.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Ben Abeba Restaurant at dusk as seen from the edge of the steep entry ramp. The remarkable architecture is only the first delightful characteristic of this innovative island of civility here in the middle of dust and primitive refinements.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Starters for one of my meals at the Ben Abeba Restaurant. Home made bread from their own ovens tasted so good I took the left overs back to the hotel for an evening snack. The cream corn soup could have been a meal in itself: delicious!


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another view of the ultra modern kitchen unrivaled by most fine establishments in Europe or America, a principle goal of the owner, Susan when she established the specifications for the new place.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This tuna croquet and garden fresh vegetables meal satisfied like it came from a French restaurant in Paris! The Ben Abeba Restaurant has achieved standards unexpected in this mostly primitive, dusty part of Ethiopia. What a surprising delight!


Lalibela Ethiopia: One of the several covered dining platforms at the Ben Abeba Restaurant as seen from the entry ramp at dusk. Above are more dining areas open to the sky. They remind me of giant Champaign glasses full of the bubbly.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is one of the open West facing dining areas where I enjoyed a lunch one day at the Ben Abeba Restaurant. The Mountain View Hotel where I stayed can be seen in the distance.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Irresistible fresh home made lemonade reminded me of grandma and my childhood. I can't remember enjoying a glass more than this one with the endless dusk vistas stretching out to the western horizon. This glass will always remind me of the open West facing dining area where I enjoyed it one afternoon at the fabulous Ben Abeba Restaurant in Lalibela Ethiopia.


Lalibela Ethiopia: A view of the Ben Abeba Restaurant as seen from the rustic fence lined half kilometer dirt entry road.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Ben Abeba Restaurant as seen along the half kilometer dirt entry road near the junction with the dirt road leading to the Mountain View Hotel where I stayed.


Lalibela Ethiopia: An iconic view of the Ben Abeba Restaurant as seen from the half kilometer dirt entry road not far from the junction with the dirt road leading to the Mountain View Hotel where I stayed.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is one of the open West facing dining areas where I enjoyed a lunch one day at the Ben Abeba Restaurant. The Mountain View Hotel where I stayed can be seen in the background, about a twenty minute walk from the restaurant. The three Korean girls shown here also were guests at my hotel and took an interest in my website when I showed it to them.


Lalibela Ethiopia: A yet closer view of the still unfinished Ben Abeba Restaurant as seen from the half kilometer dirt entry road.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Ben Abeba Restaurant as seen from what appears to be modern huts being built in the old traditional round design on adjacent property.


Lalibela Ethiopia: And a still yet closer look at the dining platforms facing East at the Ben Abeba Restaurant as seen from the half kilometer dirt entry road.


Lalibela Ethiopia: A view of the ultra modern kitchen unseen from outside the Ben Abeba Restaurant. Well trained local young people observe modern hygiene practices and gourmet cuisine art. The owner, Susan calls them her "chefettes." Both meals I enjoyed at the restaurant made me want to return, especially considering the very reasonable prices and gracious hospitality.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is Susan, a sixty something Scottish woman who decided several years ago that Lalibela needed at least one gourmet restaurant and found an Ethiopian partner who agreed to develop the Ben Abeba Restaurant with her. When I confessed I suspected she was a former hippie like me, she refused to deny it.


Lalibela Ethiopia: A view looking east from one of the dining platforms at the Ben Abeba Restaurant. Everyone of the half dozen dining platforms has an unobstructed view of the surrounding countryside; some are covered while others are open to the sky.


Lalibela Ethiopia: One of the open observation platforms at the Ben Abeba Restaurant favored by guests for lingering over a cup of coffee hand made by a staff member performing the traditional Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony... or sipping a bottle of beer.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is one of the open West facing dining areas where I enjoyed a lunch one day at the Ben Abeba Restaurant. The Mountain View Hotel where I stayed can be seen in the background, about a twenty minute walk from the restaurant. The three Korean girls shown here also were guests at my hotel and took an interest in my website when I showed it to them.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is the open fountain observation platform at the Ben Abeba Restaurant enjoyed by guests during the pleasant parts of the day. It also serves as the roof over the most unique enclosures for toilets below. Winding walkways spiral down to the lower level seemingly suspended in space: careful in the dark or after too many beers!


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is one of the covered East facing dining areas where I enjoyed a lunch one day at the Ben Abeba Restaurant.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another of the open observation platforms at the Ben Abeba Restaurant favored by guests for lingering over a cup of coffee hand made by a staff member performing the traditional Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony... or sipping a bottle of beer.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is the open fountain observation platform at the Ben Abeba Restaurant enjoyed by guests during the pleasant parts of the day. It also serves as the roof over the most unique enclosures for toilets below. Winding walkways spiral down to the lower level seemingly suspended in space: careful in the dark or after too many beers!


Lalibela Ethiopia: Ben Abeba Restaurant as seen from the main road (dirt) running through Lalibela. At this point it is not obvious how one might reach the remote structure.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is the first sight I see when the airport shuttle taxi drops me off in the "center" of town. There is not much here and the entire extent of the "city" covers no more than a kilometer along the main paved road which becomes dirt after that.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Several curio shops like this one vie for customers near the center of the village.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Several curio shops like this one vie for customers near the center of the village. The art here attracted my attention.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is the first sight I see on the other side of the road in the center of town. There is not much here and the entire extent of the "city" covers no more than a kilometer along the main paved road.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is what I see looking on down the main road through the center of town. There is not much here.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Entrance to reception at the Aman Hotel. At $40 it would have met my minimum standards, but I trudged on for more choices and to check out the "best hotel in Lalibela," the Mountain View where I eventually ended up.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Entrance to the Aman Hotel in the very center of the town and right next to the only bank in the region. Before leaving, this young man showed me how they could provide WiFi Internet connection with a 3G dongle.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Scene along the steep main paved road that runs along the area where all the rock-hewn churches are located. The merchandise is primarily aimed at foreign tourists, but the area also serves as a market for local people.


Lalibela Ethiopia: I took this photo to record the sign designating the location of the Lalibela Public Library located along the main paved road that runs along the area where all the rock-hewn churches are located.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Entrance to the Seven Olives Hotel, one of the other lodges often recommended in guide books for this area. The interesting entrance suggests a lot more quality than is evident beyond this point.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This is some of the commercial activity in the center of the town.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Some of the stores near the center of the village at the junction road leading down to the $64 Mountain View Hotel a couple kilometers distant where I stayed three nights.


Lalibela Ethiopia: The paved "highway" from the airport continues a few hundred meters beyond the center of town and abruptly ends right here where the shadow of my head is. Standing here one day I watched as about fifteen young decorated warriors shared the effort of carrying a litter with an elderly woman on it, presumably ill and on the way to the only hospital within a hundred kilometers.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Traditional huts forming villages surround the area of the rock-hewn churches and local people get on with their lives despite the hoards of tourists and pilgrims visiting their neighborhoods. Here, barley, wheat and crumbled injera dry in the sun outside a family's hut.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Standing at the edge of one of the canopy covered rock-hewn structures this priest meditates on the historical significance of the ancient religious traditions. I watch him for ten minutes snapping a steady stream of pictures in the hope he might eventually turn around. He is one of many such priests one sees around the churches, some in white garments of their Order.


Lalibela Ethiopia: After this priest meditates on the historical significance of the ancient religious traditions for several minutes he turns around and I grab another picture. He seems to notice me and adjusts his posture for a more dignified appearance... or to approach for a donation... some did.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This priest now definitely takes notice of my attention and poses with his crucifix staff. His expression is hard to read. Does he resent my clandestine photographic efforts or is he displaying a disinterested reverie? I speak no Amharic so I'll never know.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Fly swatters on display along the road. Local people as well as tourists shop for things here.


Lalibela Ethiopia: One of the traditional village clusters near the archeological site.


Lalibela Ethiopia: One of the traditional villages near the archeological site.


Lalibela Ethiopia: O.K. This is no "super" market, but it is the closest thing to one the village of Lalibela has to offer. Essentials like bottled drinking water, packaged biscuits, soft drinks and cooking oil stacked both on dusty shelves and the dirt floor of the store satisfied basic needs. Here I discovered CoffeeCola, a delicious "new" soft drink.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Hotel promotion desks in the arrival lounge of the airport.


Axum Ethiopia: Hotel Cliff Edge near the Mountain View promotion desks in the arrival lounge of the airport.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Hotel promotion desks in the arrival lounge of the airport.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Hotel promotion desks in the arrival lounge of the airport.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Curios on display in the departure lounge of the airport.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Curios on display in the departure lounge of the airport.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Local people climb steep paths that connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. Here a couple and their heavily loaded donkeys reposition the load.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Local people climb steep paths that connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. Here a couple and their heavily loaded donkeys reposition the load.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Painting hanging in the departure lounge of the airport.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Painting hanging in the departure lounge of the airport.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Airport terminal as we land in Lalibela.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Our plane after we get off in Lalibela.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Our De Havilland Canada / Bombardier Q400 turboprop plane after we land in Lalibela.


Lalibela Ethiopia: At certain times of the year water floods some of the numerous tunnels and trenches which connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: From this high vantage point armed guards keep watch over the antiquities which are a part of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Area around one of the surface entry points into underground tunnels connecting the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: At certain times of the year water floods some of the numerous tunnels and trenches which connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Numerous tunnels and trenches connect many of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: This looks like a blocked up door into one of the original structures that is a part of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Details of sculptured windows in the wall of one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: One of the villages located immediately adjacent to one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Looking down into the trench surrounding one of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another view of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. I took a lot of photos as I circumambulated this iconic structure as I'll never be here again.


Lalibela Ethiopia: First view seen by visitors of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Looking down into the trench surrounding the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: View of the trench leading to the entrance of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: View of the trench and tunnel leading to the entrance of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Closeup view of walls of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Trash can sitting in the trench surrounding the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.

 


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another view from an other angle of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. I took a lot of photos as I circumambulated this iconic structure as I'll never be here again.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another view of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. I took a lot of photos as I circumambulated this iconic structure as I'll never be here again.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Another view of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region. I took a lot of photos as I circumambulated this iconic structure as I'll never be here again.


Lalibela Ethiopia: First view seen by visitors of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: First view seen by visitors of the Biet Giyougis or Church of St. George, the most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches located in this region.


Lalibela Ethiopia: Airport terminal as we land in Lalibela.

 

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Reference photo
August 2002
 
 

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