Ethiopia: Tour 2

An Appropriate Song


The destruction of Axum plunged Ethiopia into chaos. For a time, the Axumite dynasty, restored, continued to claim to rule as "negasts," "king of kings," but in reality the Axumite empire split into small, feudal kingdoms.

This era ended in 922 when Mera Tekla Haimanot proclaimed himself emperor, displacing his son-in-law, the supposed emperor. He moved the capital 300 kilometers south and started the Zagewe dynasty that went from 922-1268.

The word "Zagwe" means "from the Agew." The Axumites had conquered the Agew region and converted the people to Orthodoxy and cultural practices. The Agew copied the culture of their northern brethren and eventually usurped power. The Agew, like the Axumites, spoke a Semitic language.

Gradually, the Zagwe dynasty became more and more concerned with religion and power slipped away. The most famous of the Zagwe kings, Lalibela, built the rock-hewn churches featured on this page and which took a good part of his lifetime to construct.

Eventually, opposition to the Zagwe centered around the descendants of the last of the Axumite kings. With a force composed of most of the surrounding provinces, the Axumites, in fact Amhara, marched on the Zagwe kings. Lalibela became, once more a sleepy mountain village though, also, a site of pilgrimmages and a World Heritage Site.


After the Jewish Queen Judith attacked failing Axum, a period
of warfare followed before Lalibela became the capital.

A local boy found this dying eagle and made a pet out of it.

King Lalibela erected a series of churches carved right inside the
limestone hills. This is one of two freestanding churches.

Allegedly, angels helped in the construction of the churches.

Here a prelate stands with one of the crosses from the churches.

Here, notice the Amharic women dressed in distinctive white shawls.

Some of the caves are "semi-monolithic," meaning they were carved from the hills.

The interior "Holy of Holies," a copy of the Arc of Covenant.

The exterior side of one of the churches.

A view of the hills.

The masterpiece church St. George's, actually a giant cross carved from a mountain.

Another view of the same.

These are the skulls of pilgrims who died en route to this site in 1600.

Another view of the same.

This is a view from the roof.

This is another side view.

Here's a priest standing near one of the churches under reconstruction. As a world heritage site, the WTO is rebuilding it.

This is a view from Asheton monastery.

The author after a climb of almost 3 miles.

This is my guide from the climb.


Related Ethiopian Tours:
Back to Tour 1: Axum
On to Tour 3: Harar

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