I finally made it. If you don’t know, the rock-hewn churches found in Lalibela are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ethiopia and a UNESCO world heritage site. The intricately designed churches are carved from the rock. It’s like an Ethiopian Orthodox Petra. And it is found in my neck of the woods, but I hadn’t made the trip until now.
In many ways, as my site mate and fellow traveler Sarah pointed out, the trip was like a condensed version of our Peace Corps experience: somewhat stressful and frustrating (flat tires, farenji prices, cramped buses, annoying people) but ultimately worth it.
The churches are amazing. The history is fascinating. King Lalibela wanted to (or by God was instructed to) build a New Jerusalem. Each of the main eleven churches has a different meaning or relevance. You can find the “tombs” of Adam and Eve, Jesus, and the three wise men. The most famous of all the churches (or, as our guide, Efram, put it, “the highlight of Ethiopia”), St George, represents Noah’s Ark. There is a River Jordan. There also is one church, Golgotha, of which is said that merely stepping inside is a ticket to heaven. Women aren’t allowed in, naturally.
So I may not get into heaven, but at least I made it to Lalibela.