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Ethiopia by E-mail

Subject: Good morning from Addis Ababa
Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2006 00:20:33 -0400
From: Pat Rollin parollin9923@hotmail.com

We are back from our vacation to the Historical Route. We had a good time and did things some of us never thought we could do. We arrived in Lalibela and checked into our hotel and had lunch and then started our tour of the churches. We had a wonderful group of 3 people helping us in Lalibela. The churches are all in caves or cut out of the mountainside so there is a lot of walking down small trails and ledges to get to the churches. You go from one church to the next on these trails. The first afternoon we did 7 churches. They were carved from the mountain rock around the outside of the church and then windows were made in the churches and the churches were carved from the inside out. Some of the churches have pictures on the walls, others just have different type of crosses or the Star of David on the ceilings and all had a priest to show you the cross of that church. All churches were given a different style of cross by the King as they were built. On the next morning we did the last 4 churches in the group. It was well worth all the work to get there. At one period Nathan had to let go and let the men pull him up the one set of steps that looked like a pile of rocks. A couple of times with me being scared of heights and ledges it did not work to well but we all made all 11 Churches and saw some amazing sights and views. One place we were told was the dark tunnel that is the descent to hell and then the stairway to Heaven, which we were not sure was steps but looked like a pile of rocks. Ashenafi was our guide and loaned us a book about Lalibela to look at then we arranged to have him get us a couple to buy. Our two shoe watchers and helpers were Maregy and Endyene. On the second morning Maregy bought us all crosses as gifts. I had admired his St. George's Church cross and he gave us all different crosses. Included is a pictures from Lalibela. It is of the St. George's Church built by King Lalibella. The legend is that after the king finished building the other churches, St. George came to him and asked where his church was so he built this church. This church is carved from the solid rock and hollowed out. It is more than three stories tall. There is no additional "construction". We were told that one of the churches we were in was in a movie called Amazing Grace and one of the priest we met was in the movie. None of us had seen the movie but will try and find it when we get home. Jim took a lot of pictures and so we had to down load some on Nathan's computer. We did not take ours along so more pictures of Lalibela to come. I had always wondered why when you look at churches the people here tell you that is a Lalibela Cross when they are all different but now I understand that King Lalibela gave each church its own cross shape and size so they are all Lalibela crosses but the King had a different cross which is also called Lalibela Cross. The only drawback on being in Lalibela on Sunday during the low season is that the shops are not open so we did not get much souvenir shopping done. But the morning we left Jim and I took a walk and it was very early and a couple of men saw us walking so they opened up their shops and we did get a couple of crosses. At the airport we bought a hat that the shepherds wear in the fields. We looked at some books but are going to look at the book stores in Addis.

On Day Three we went to Axum. We only had one day there so after checking into the hotel the tour started and the guide Sisay was very nice. He did not speak as good English but once we got to listening to him we could understand him and he was a wonderful performer. His dad was a priest so he was brought up in the church and understood all the chanting and traditions of the church. We first went to the tombs and castle of two kings father and son on the side of a mountain. Nathan and I waited at the top of the tomb and all of a sudden we could hear them discussing in the tomb about all the bats. They had electricity in the tomb but they use the bees waxed candles as lights. We went by the Queen's pool and they were looking for a girl (15 years old) that had drown that morning so their was a lot of people standing around looking into the pool. Jim said the water was cold so they may never find her. Because of no swimming here most people don't know how to swim. We also stopped to see a steale in a building which was written on in Ge'ez, Sebene and Greek. It was found by a farmer and they built the building to keep it out of the weather. Then back to the hotel for lunch and then to the Museum, Steale Park and St. Mary's Church. They have a small Archaeological Museum which they have a plan to build on a new site so they have a bigger and improved museum. Then we walked to St. Mary's Bible of St. Mary's church to see the old St. Mary's Church which is where the Ark of the Covenant is kept. The new St. Mary's Church was built by Haile Selassie I and is the home of a 1000 year old book written on skins and pictures were drawn in beautiful colors which were all made from natural colors and are still very colorful after all the years. See the attached picture. Then Jim, Nathan and Mel went into the Monastery which woman are not allowed in. They took pictures and showed them to me. In Ethiopia there are churches and Monasteries that women are not allowed in but then there are some that men are not allowed in where the nuns live, so as a visitor you try to understand their culture and obey the rules.

On Day four we went to Gonder. We arrived early and our Guide Mesfin was there and we went to check into our hotel but Jim and Mel went in and decided that it was not where we wanted to stay so we tried another hotel Fasiladas' Castle which we liked with a really nice view. Then we were off to see the Palaces which is a big complex that has 6 different palaces on the site. King Fasiladas built his palace in the 16th century and then his next 5 successors built their palaces next to the first one. The photo shows Fasiladas' castle. As they built the other palaces turned into a library and other uses. During World War II the Italians where in Ethiopia and used this site as a camp and the site was bombed by the British. They are now doing some restoration on the site now. At the Fasiladas baths which is where Timkat Services are held they are rebuilding the pool and building with the traditional materials. Then we went to Debre Berhan Selassie Church which means Trinity at the Mount of Light. In the church is the ceiling with all the angels which you see in a lot of pictures here in Ethiopia. Around the walls is the story of Jesus and the Ethiopian Church founders and saints in paintings. The church is still standing because a swarm of bees would not let the Dervish sack the church and burn it in the 16th century.

The next morning Mesfin could not take us anywhere so he arranged a tour for us to the mountains and Wolleka which is the Falasha Village. We went to the Project Ploughshare Women's Crafts Training Center. They made a lot of beautiful pottery, shawls, and other woven material. We got a tour of the Center and had coffee. They are helping single mothers find training. This center was started by a person about 15 years ago and now is getting to be self supporting. Then we went to the center of Gonder for lunch and to the airport. After a half hour delay we were on our way home.

As with all vacations it was a nice trip but we are glad to be home again. Jim is back at work full time trying to figure out how to get everything done so we can have graduation and end our stay in Addis. I went back to Gemini this morning and everyone thought I would be back on Wednesday so they were worried I was sick and glad to see me. More photos next time.



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