A smooth mid morning flight took us to Lalibela via Gondar. We arrived around noon and our driver and guide who were supposed to meet us didn’t. Good start.
We eventually secured a ride to our accommodation and were met by Hilo(sp), our guide for the rest of the afternoon and all the next day. He was apologetic, there was a mis-communication and he was really sorry. We easily forgave him and he turned out to be a blessing. He was an expert in all things Lalibela and area and is an icon in his community due to his past foray into local politics and his earlier involvement in social work with the local women and children. His history in the village is iconic in that his grandfather was the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians in Lalibela, one of the two holiest cities in Ethiopia. He was the man.
Lalibela is famous for it’s UNESCO designated World Heritage rock-cut monolithic churches and the whole area in and around Lalibela represents a legacy of the medieval and post-medieval civilizations in Ethiopia dating from the 7th to 13th centuries.
The churches are quite incredible. Chiseled, I suppose by thousands of workers, they cut mostly granite rock to carve out these incredible buildings.
It is mind boggling to try to understand how this was done. Like many amazing temples in India and elsewhere, it was not done overnight but in many cases, 15, 25, even 50 or 100 years to complete. Amazing.
We visited four of the five northwestern clutches of churches in the afternoon, Bet Medhane Alem, Bet Marymam and Bet Mikael & Bet Golgotha.
Little bits of rock flew off with each hit of the hammer. Some stuck to his sweaty brow but he was determined.
The next day, his ears ringing big time from all of the steel-to-rock hammering he heard a greeting and then a question from one of his friends.
“How’s it going Ismailiya, how are you? Great, how are you he replied. “Good, what are you doing?” Chiselling a church out of solid granite to show my love and dedication to um, well, the church and stuff. “Making progress?” Yes, very much. “How much longer till you figure you’ll be done?”
Oh, about a thousand years…”