November 2011. Shepherdess. Simian Mountains, Ethiopia.
November 8, 2011. Lalibela, Ethiopia. Pilgrim praying at Bet Maryam. The church, dedicated to the Virgin, who’s particularly venerated in Ethiopia, is the most popular church among pilgrims. Some believe it may have been the first church built by Lalibela.
November 8, 2011. Lalibela, Ethiopia. Bet Medhane Alem (Savior of the World). Said to be the largest rock-hewn church in the world, it measures 33.5m by 23.5m and is over 11.5m high.
“By vast Expence and hideous pain, The Rock a Church became” (Hiob Ludolf, 1684).
Lalibela - a city of rock-hewn churches, built in the 12th century, to become the “New Jerusalem”. The city was called Roha and King Lalibela came into power after his brother abdicated the throne. Legend says that he went into exile to Jerusalem and vowed that when he returned he would create a New Jerusalem for his people since they were too impoverished and the pilgrimage was too difficult for them to make. Another legend states that he was poisoned by his brother and went into a coma, where God showed him a vision of the churches and commanded him to build them. There is a lot of uncertainty as to how long it took to create the churches. I was told 24 years for all 11 churches with a good deal of divine intervention (the men lovingly toiled away during the day, while angels intervened at night, doing twice the work as the men).
There are two basic types of churches in Lalibela:
1. Rock-hewn cave churches, which are cut inwards from a more or less vertical cliff face sometimes using and widening an existing natural cave.
2. Rock-hewn monolithic churches, which imitate a built- up structure but are cut in one piece from the rock and separated from it all round by a trench. Nowhere else in the world are constructions of this particular kind found.
Lalibela’s name means, “The bee recognizes its sovereignty”. Bees have special significance in Lalibela as a result and they make a special honey-wine called Tej - surprisingly bitter-sweet to taste.
Shelter. In the countryside of Ethiopia. November, 2011.
November 7, 2011. Simien Mountains, Ethiopia. By no means is this photograph spectacular, but it was all I could snap in the heat of the moment. There I was, sitting atop a cliff overlooking the breathtaking Simien Mountain Range. It had been a long day and I was enjoying my late afternoon lunch of rice and meat that I had picked up in Debark. I did not have utensils and so was scooping it up with my hands.
As if from thin air behind me I heard a WOOSH, followed by a THUNK, as this eagle smacked my hand while trying to eat the meat from it. I had no idea what hit me. I looked back and forth, then finally up as I saw the eagle rapidly circling in a downward spiral aiming to attack again. And man, with those two enormous eyes glaring down at me, I felt like a rabbit with nowhere to hide. So what did I do? I’m embarrassed to admit that my instinct was to react like a four year old and duck (if I can’t see the eagle, it can’t see me, right?). Thankfully my mountain scout was nearby and, having seen this comedy play out before him, ran over and flung his jacket in the air to shoo the eagle away. I had just enough time to jump up and ditch the food further away, run back and snap this shot of my hunter before he flew off over the abyss of cliffs below us.
November 7, 2011. Simien Mountains, Ethiopia. Gelada “Bleeding Heart” Baboon: endemic to Ethiopia, it is the only primate that feeds on grass and has its ‘mating skin’ on its chest. They live in large social groups (up to 800!). The females decide who’s boss, the young males form bachelor groups, and the older males take on a grandfather-type role to look after the young. They were so peaceful - I was literally walking around them!
November 7, 2011. Simien Mountains, Ethiopia. A shepherd shows me how he uses his whip.
November 7, 2011. Simien Mountains, Ethiopia. These ladies work at the Simien Mountain Lodge. I want to return and stay in that lodge someday. The Simien range is breathtaking and deserves at least a good 4 to 5 day trek.