Postcards from Lalibela | David duChemin

A week ago a group of us landed in Lalibela, Ethiopia about the same time as thousands of orthodox pilgrims were arriving from all over the country. We spent the last week in this high dusty town, walking among the centuries-old churches, all carved from the red rock on which this town sits, and waiting for orthodox Christmas. Unique in ways I’ve not encountered anywhere else in Africa, Ethiopia is hard to describe to those who haven’t been, and Lalibela is even more so. After being exiled to Jerusalem by his brother the king, Prince Lalibela eventually returned to his home with the intention of building an African Jerusalem, and this town – some 2600 meters in the mountainous north of Ethiopia – was where he built it.  Churches here, all intricately carved from the rock, and joined by tunnels and bridges, are alive; they throng with life, the priests and pilgrims moving to the rhythms of a faith practiced here for many centuries. The walls are hung with tapestries, the floors covered in carpets, all of it lit from high carved windows and the odd bare bulb, placed wherever the rock allows. It’s crowded and dusty and full of mystery and humanity…..

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