Debre Libanos Monastery, Ethiopia | Part 1 (10 Photos)

I had to visit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia recently for some embassy business.  There’s not a lot to do in the city, so I arranged a day trip to the Debre Libanos Monastery and surrounding area.  It is one of the most historically significant religious sites in Ethiopia, and only about an hour or so away from the city by car.

1: As we were leaving Addis Ababa, we passed thousands of church-goers crammed around the entire block of a nearby church. You could hear a sermon over the loudspeaker. Most people where dressed in traditional garb of white linen.

2: On the way we made a pitstop near this small village. I had to wonder which came first, the village or the power lines.

3: These kids ran out to greet us, and they loved seeing their photo on the tiny lcd screen of my camera. This is another one of those times I regret not buying a bag or candy or something to take along for the trip.

4: On the road we stopped for some breakfast, which consisted of a mug of fermented goat’s milk with spices added for flavor. Both the flavor and consistency were very different, and I was able to drink about half of mine. I was a bit worried for my stomach for a few hours afterwards, but it all worked out fine.

5: A monastery has existed on this site since the 13th century, though the current cathendral building dates back to 1961. It was built on the orders of Emperor Haile Selassie. The church itself sits atop the tomb of the Saint Tekle Haymanot, who’s famous cave is nearby.

6: The alter and dome of the cathedral. The dome is ringed in the Ethiopian national colors, red, yellow, and green. Brightly colored artwork surrounds the entrance to the apse.

7: The stained glass of the church has a uniquely African flare to it, including Amharic text. They are quite the departure from visiting European style churches.

8: A brightly colored gate beckons you up a trail to the nearby cave. You might recognize this color scheme as looking Rastafarian. The Rastafarian religion actually originates from Jamaica. They believes the last Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, is the reincarnation of Jesus. The colors of the Emperor’s flag, red, green, and yellow, were also adopted by the Rastafarians. These colors are still prevalent in Ethiopia as well.

9: A the end of the trail you’ll find a brightly colored set of buildings. One of them is set into the cliff wall. This is the entrance to the cave the Saint Tekle Haymanot carved out of the cliff face using hand tools. This occurred at the end of the 13th century, leading up to the 14th century.

10: The Saint Tekle Haymanot is rumored to have chiseled out this entire cave over the course of 29 years. You can see chisel marks on all the walls. Basins are crammed along the floor to collect water dripping from the ceiling. This is considered holy water, and is used for blessings and baptisms at the Monastery. Pilgrims come from all over Ethiopia to visit this site.

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