The Journey of One Man From the Sources of the Nile to Zion
Lalibela is known for the most impressive churches considered as a work of sculpture dedicated to the glory of God. It offers an experience of impressive and mysterious churches which are carved out of red volcanic tuff on which they stand. Some lying completely hidden in deep trenches and others standing in quarried caves, all are complex in architecture and super human in scale of workman ship and concept.
The Israelites by Leonard Beder
Axum - The home of ancient civilization. It is littered with the ruins of palaces, underground tombs, mysterious monolithic stelae carved from single piece of granite and many historical relics. The founding of the Empire of Axum in the 5th century BC is often taken as the starting point of the Ethiopian civilization. During the Axumite times Ge-ez, the ancient Ethiopian language, was the official language. Even though Ge-ez is no longer widely used it is still used in the Ethiopian Orthodox churches.
Please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for this, please arrive a day early so you are able to attend. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting. If you arrive early perhaps take a tour of this bustling city, dotted with Italian architecture, interesting churches and friendly inhabitants.
Timket festival is a three day festival that commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the river Jordan by John the Baptist. The procession is accompanied by thousands of locals dressed in dazzling white traditional dress that contrasts the colours of the ceremonial robes and sequined velvet umbrellas of the priests. Stay close to your leader and fellow group members as you'll be in the thick of the crowd as you join the march to Jan Meda. In the evening you'll have dinner at a local restaurant. Day 2: Addis Ababa - Timket Festival.
Wake up early today to enjoy the main celebration day of Timket. This morning there will be mass and sermons happening all over Ethiopia in preparation for the blessing of the water. We will head back to Jan Meda to be part of this fascinating event. Here the patriarch will bless the water and baptise the crowd with the Holy water. The event and day then turns into a celebration with the churches singing hymns and providing musical performances to the crowd.
This afternoon is free to enjoy the festive atmosphere at a local restaurant and taste injera, coffee and locally brewed beer. Day 3: Bahir Dar. Today we will take a spectacular flight to Bahir Dar. From the air we can gaze across the extraordinary nature of the Ethiopian Plateau, repeatedly cut by immensely deep gorges. Bahir Dar is a small but fast growing town on the southern shore of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. It has long attracted religious men and the area contains numerous churches and monasteries, many of them on the thirty or so islands of Lake Tana. This afternoon, board a sightseeing boat for a cruise around the lake.
Many of these monasteries are believed to date back to the 13th and 14th centuries, and feature superb ecclesiastical art.
Keepers of the Lost Ark?
Legend has it that the Ark of Covenant was hidden here for protection during the times when Pagan forces invaded the ancient capital Axum. Your boat trip will take you to the monastery of Ura-Kidane Mehret, which dates from between the 16th and 18th centuries. Day 4: Bahir Dar. Head out to the Blue Nile Falls today. Located 32 kilometers south of Bahir Dar, the Blue Nile Falls measure over metres wide and crash down 48 metres in full flood. New hydro-electrical plants and dams have somewhat impacted on their magnificence, but the sight is still a memorable one.
You can take a longer scenic walk past the main viewpoint 1.
You will then cross the Nile River by boat to reach your vehicle. After a leisurely lunch back in Bahir Dar, perhaps visit the open air market to take a tuk tuk up to the town viewpoint. Day 5: Gondar. Travel north around the edge of Lake Tana this morning and head for the regal city of Gondar. This drive will take approximately 4. Gondar was the 17th and 18th century capital of Ethiopia, and is famed for its medieval castles and churches. The city's unique Royal Enclosure is a World Heritage site, home to dramatic Emperor-built castles unlike any other in Africa.
The architecture shows the richness of Axumite traditions as well as the prosperity of Ethiopia in the 17th and 18th centuries.
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Spend the afternoon visiting these medieval castles — like the two-storied palace of Emperor Fasilades — and stop by the famous church of Debre Berhan Selassie. The church is one of the finest in Ethiopia, with walls and ceilings covered stunning in ancient murals of angels. Day 6: Gondar. Today you'll have free time to explore the quiet streets of Gondar for yourself. Their scale reflects how important Axum once was, and they were probably transported by elephants from a nearby quarry. The mausoleums in this area include the tomb of the false door and also the tombs of King Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, while the archaeological museum houses fascinating displays.
An unimposing building with a green picket fence is the St Mary of Zion Church, the first built in sub-Saharan Africa. This holds the crowns of various former Ethiopian emperors and is even said to house the most fabled biblical relic in history — the Ark of the Covenant. The afternoon is free for you to keep exploring — you might like to see some of the handcraft shops or take a walk out of Aksum for an hour or so to see Gobodera, the quarry place for the stele and rock lioness relief.
Ethiopia...churches, coffee, crosses and culture
After lunch, drive to Enda Teka Tesfay and walk to the rock church of Medhane Alem Adi Kesho, approximately 4 hours or 8 hours total for the day. There are numerous magnificent rock-hewn churches in the Tigray region, but Medhane Alem Adi Kesho is one of the best in terms of architectural quality.
The outside is roughly carved, but the interior ceiling is elaborately sculpted. Spend the night in nearby Mekele. Day Lalibela In and around Lalibela Start the long journey to Lalibela early in the morning on a smooth paved road and, after a couple of hours, reach the spectacular mountain range of Amba Alaje. Continue through green valleys and flat plains before turning west towards Lalibela at Woldia approximately 5 hours. The road after Woldia offers one of the most scenic routes in the country. It involves climbing on winding roads along steep hills and evergreen lush valleys up to the Delanta Plateau 3, metres , then contouring around the valley for a couple of hours, before arriving at Lalibela in the late afternoon approximately 6 hours.
Ethiopia: Ancient Lands and Religious Festivals
Between and , several astounding rock-hewn churches were constructed in Lalibela; astonishing because most are not built from carved freestanding rocks, but instead created from huge single blocks of stone unearthed by the digging of enormous pits. The Northern Group contains seven churches, a tomb, a chapel and a sunken chapel.
At the centre of the group is Bet Medhane Alem, measuring A tunnel connects three of the churches in a courtyard to the east, whilst another tunnel connects two other churches to the west of Bet Medhane Alem. This church is exceptionally well-preserved and is probably the most visually perfect. The Eastern group of five churches includes the only hypogeous church, where only the roof remains attached to the overhead rock. Day Lalibela This morning we trek to the rock church of Asheten Mariam, which sits on the 3,metre-high Abune Josef mountain that overlooks Lalibela.
You will climb for 2.