As mentioned previously, I shall allow my last post on the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela to serve as a segue into a discussion of Lalibela itself. And, frankly, I found Lalibela and its environs more interesting than the churches the town is famous for.
A little background:
Lalibela (also known as Lalibala) was the most powerful and most famous of the kings of the Zagwe Dynasty (also known as the Agaw Dynasty) who ruled the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia between the first quarter of the 13th and the last quarter of the fourteenth century from their formidable mountain fortresses of Waas and Lasta, long after Aksum had ceased to be the political center of the State. Lalibela’s baptismal name was Gabra Masqal (The Slave of the Cross) and he was on the throne from 1205 to 1225.
King Lalibela’s fame was so great that the old power center of the dynasty, Aadafa, with its eleven famous churches attributed to his reign later renamed “Lalibela” after him.
Some say Lalibela was intended to be a New Jerusalem in response to the capture of “Old” Jerusalem by Muslims, and many of its historic buildings take their name and layout from buildings in Jerusalem.
With that out of the way… Lalibela is remote even by Ethiopian standards. It is up just below 8,000 feet in elevation and the surrounding mountains make the dirt roads allowing access in to Lalibela very rough. As such, prices for basic goods are elevated and electricity and water can be had for only a few minutes or hours a day and very rarely at the same time. One soon becomes used to utilizing candles for light and buckets of cold water for showers, washing hands, etc.
Arriving at the airport in Lalibela… No ramps or fancy waiting areas here – one just exits the airplane directly onto the runway.
The fights in and out were extremely rough (even by my standards) with the aircraft being absolutely pummeled by turbulence created from the mountains. My Italian did not like it and Joy Ames would really not have liked it:
Upon arriving in Lalibela, one can relax a little after being reassured that capitalism is alive and well even in the most remote corners of our planet:
This is the main street of Lalibela:
There is a construction boom going on in downtown Lalibela now with two separate buildings under construction (Lalibela is not very big):
I forget the technical term, but the Ethiopians are nuts about tabletop soccer. One can find multiple tables set up along the streets of any Ethiopian town:
Some of the street scenes near the center of town:
The center of town runs along a ridge and the homes of the residents of Lalibela spill down the sides of the mountain forming the ridge:
The greatest population density may be in the center of town, but there is plenty to see down in the residential districts as well. Plus, there are more goats to be found:
The light in this picture is horrible, but quite coincidentally I happened to take it just as the guy in the center was starting to tumble down into a bruising somersault after the homemade swing he was on collapsed. Behind him you can see the onlookers reacting with a mix of horror, shock and laughter… Soon it was all laughter (Click twice on the picture in order to enlarge it and see what I’m referring to) :
Something that was interesting to me was how Lalibela wrapped around and incorporated pieces of the churches into the modern (relatively speaking) village:
That’s an animal hide being stretched and dried next to the entrance of the home:
One of the guards from the churches in front of his home:
One day while wandering through town, I stumbled across this workshop and started taking some pictures:
Noticing my interest, my Italian and I were soon welcomed onto the premises to observe the goings on:
I wonder what OSHA would say about his safety gear?
This is inside the shop itself and these guys are using a saw to carve a cedar log into a workable shape:
While in Lalibela, we stayed at The Seven Olives Hotel. It is the oldest hotel in Lalibela and has comfortable rooms and a terrace restaurant that look across beautiful gardens filled with unfeasibly colorful birds.
One of the girls on the staff of The Seven Olives:
I shot these two videos at our hotel of some of the local birds: