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Lalibela: The eight wonder of the world

St. George church in Lalibela 4

The Churches of Lalibela

According to legend Lalibela was born as the brother of the ruling Zagwe king in the 12th century. As a child he was covered by a swarm of bees, which his mother saw as a sign of his later reign. His brother, not happy with the prophecy, tried to poison him, but did not succeed. Still, Lalibela spend three days in a deep sleep, time during which he was carried away to heaven and instructed to build the rock town he has seen there. At the same time his brother had a vision in which Jesus ordered him to resign in favor for his younger brother.

As soon as Lalibela became king, he began to gather craftsmen and workers for the construction of the rock-hewn churches. According to legend angels worked beside his men as they cut each one from the rock, so the construction was developing fast. The town, formerly known as Roha, became known as Lalibela and began to draw thousands of pilgrims. Although his dynasty was overthrown, Lalibela is still referred to as a saint.

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Rock churches of Tigray

Rock churches lalibelaOver 125 rock-hewn churches are recorded in Tigray alone. These churches date from the 4th-15th century. Most of them lie scattered around the Gera-Alta mountain chain. Next to some pre Christian templates Abreha We Atsbeha and Wukro Cherckos, hewn in the 4th century, are the two most famous and most accessible churches, which can be visited within two or three days in addition to the historical route itineraries.

African Adventure Tours can organize special itineraries to visit the rock churches of Tigray. By car, combined with trekking and camping (there are also a few new lodges appearing in the area) you could visit quite a few churches in about 4 or 5 days.

Abraha We Atsbeha

A newly built gravel road leads to the church of Abreha We Atsebha, which is situated 15 km west of Wukro.

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Axum and Surroundings (2100m Altitude)

Axum Axum, the holy city of Ethiopia and resting place of the Arc of the Covenant, reached its height between the 1st and 10th century. It was a kingdom of great wealth and sophistication, controlling the caravan routes from the hinterland of Africa trading with ivory and slaves. Its kings minted gold coinage when almost no one else in the world was rich enough to afford it or sophisticated enough to require it. The Axumite kingdom's conversion to Christianity in 333 AD, during the rain of King Ezana, made Ethiopia since then a land of innumerable churches and monasteries.

According to the Orthodox Church the original Ark of the Covenant, containing the tablets of stone with the 10 commandments, lies in Axum. Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba, brought it with him when he returned from a visit to Jerusalem to see his father. The Ark is now rests in the St. Mary of Zion church, the oldest church in Ethiopia, under close guard of a priest. Nobody is allowed to see it. Not even the high priest of Axum.

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