Lalibela could be argued to be Ethiopia’s religious centre. Although my main purpose for going to the town was for a hike to Hudad in the highlands, it was a great opportunity to see the architecture and religion of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, a very old religion.
The architecture of Lalibela’s churches (also found in some other places in Ethiopia) is unique. There are three different styles – some are almost totally connected to the original rock while others stand alone – but all are carved from rock.
These rock hewn churches draw thousands of pilgrims from all over Ethiopia (some walking for up to a month) in January to celebrate epiphany. Religion is a very big part of life for the people of Ethiopia, whether Christian or others.
The draw card for me is less about the religion and more about the history, significance to the culture and architecture. I am not religious, but I am always interested in trying to understand why people believe in different things and how this affects the culture of the places I visit. I was fortunate to find a guide who was also a Deacon, providing me with more insight.
I also happened to turn up at the time of a sermon practice, which my guide participated in while I was photographing it.
In Ethiopia, and particularly in Ethiopian Orthodox Christian religion many families send a child to live in the church and learn to be become a Deacon. These children then become children of the church living out at least their childhood under the church. The young boy above and my guide are some of these children.
The most memorable part of the afternoon were the conversations I had with my Deacon guide over a St George beer while watching the children on the street watching me.