Lalibela, Ethiopia – A Travel Blog

by | December 25, 2020 |

I first posted this blog about Lalibela on July 13, 2018,  when I went to Ethiopia with my dear friend Phillip. I am reposting it because 60 Minutes  aired a segment on the city today, on Christmas.

60 Minutes named their segment “Built by Angels.”

According to Elias Alemayehu, our guide in Ethiopia, 95% of tourists come to the country in order to visit Lalibela. The reason is suggested by the title image. Namely the remarkable churches carved out of rock in one piece. The work was done between the 7th and 13th centuries.

Phillip and I fell in the 5% who come to Ethiopia for not terribly well-defined reasons. (But were delighted we came). Having said that, Lalibela is certainly worth the trip.

So, really, hundreds of years ago, Ethiopian Christians carved a series of churches, making Lalibela a UNESCO World Heritage site, as are many places in Ethiopia. To repeat: The people didn’t build the churches, they carved them straight out of rock. Were they built by angels? I doubt it. More like slaves.

Lalibela: The Churches

About all I can do is show you pictures. The outsides are as magnificent as are …


… the insides.


The Star of David, visible in the center of the archway, is an indication of the very long participation of Ethiopia in the Judeo-Christian tradition, also visible in Gondar.


Another amazing interior:


And another:


The churches are connected through a series of tunnels:


And another:


Lalibela: More Churches

Then there’s this one carved right out of the ground:




I got my fix for fig doors here, the one I developed at the monastery at Bahir Dar:

A dramatic shot:


Phillip and Elias on a high ledge

Yet another church. (There are many more I am not including in this blog, all equally spectacular):


Another intriguing interior, held up with amazing pillars:

Lalibela also has this. Can you guess what it is?

It’s a restaurant.

Further interesting question: Who had the idea to build it?

Answer: a Scottish woman. Unfortunately she was gone for the summer in Scotland. (It’s winter in Ethiopia in June.) So, we did not get a chance to ask her how she came to Lalibela and the idea of building this – okay, let’s call it bizarre – building.

The good news is the food there is very good, and the waitstaff lovely.

See: All Africa Blogs

Haile Selassie – A Travel Blog

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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