Ethiopia is known for its historic victory over a European army during the partitioning of Africa by European powers. Its independence was preserved to date although, an Italian occupation occurred from 1936 to 1941.
Additionally, Ethiopian’s religious beliefs can be traced back to King 'Ēzānā's adoption of Christianity in 333 until the overthrow of Haile Selassie in 1974. Up to 62 percent of the population is Christian.
Ethiopia’s rich socio-political background makes it the most well-preserved cultures in the world. Locals pass on the culture from one generation to the next with little or no influence from other countries.
On top of that, there are various remote tourist destinations including remote churches only known to a number of local people.
Here are some of the assorted hotspots for your consideration when you next visit Ethiopia.
Bete Giyorgis of Lalibela
The legend goes that before the 12th century, Lalibela, located in the northern highlands of Ethiopia, was known as Roha. But when a boy - Lalibela -who would become a king was born, bees buzzed around his head to signal his royal future. The boy was thus named Lalibela, meaning “the bees recognize his sovereignty.”
He is known for establishing a New Jerusalem in Ethiopia to save locals who couldn’t make the pilgrimage to the original. A dozen churches carved from stone were established, and they still stand to date.
Other creations such as biblical scenes were reconstructed out of carved rock. The Bete Giyorgis or the Church of St. George- the last one to be built- is the most spectacular of these artifacts. One column of stone has been used to carve the church and is connected to other sunken stone churches through a series of intricate tunnels.
Regrettably, soil and water erosion have contributed to the poor state of the churches today. However, The Bete Giyorgis has remained strong amidst all these pressures and attracts curious tourists and pilgrims from different parts of the world.
Chapel of the Tablet
It’s alleged that the Ethiopian chapel holds the ‘lost’ Ark of the Covenant, guarded by monks who cannot leave the chapel grounds until death.
The Ark- which The Bible says contains God’s Ten Commandments- is said to have been brought to Aksum, Ethiopia in the Chapel of the Tablet located between the new and the old churches of St Mary of Zion.
Since it was brought to Aksum in the 1960s, no one person has been allowed to see the holy object except for the guard. The current guard appoints another virgin to look after The Ark prior to their death.
Although you will not be allowed to see The Ark itself, you can become part of the pilgrims visiting the magnificent view of the chapel from outside the red fence that keeps the visitors within the perimeter.
The Afar Rift
All was well in the Afar Desert in Northern Ethiopia until the 10-day seismic activity in 2005 which led to a 35- mile rift that is over 20 feet wide at certain points.
Since the rift in the northern part of the country, scientists have been carrying out research to check the possibilities of a new ocean forming. According to the researchers, a crack caused by seismic activity rapidly spread out south was about 60 kilometers long, 8 meters wide and 2 meters deep. All these happened within days. In months, the ground slumped by as much as 100 meters, and magma was observed to form what will eventually become a basalt ocean floor.
In a million years, it is believed that the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden will both pour into the depression and meet creating a new ocean in what is now desert. Unfortunately, we will be long gone to witness this spectacular happening, and view.
If it’s something you would like to see? Then visit The Afar Rift.
Erta Ale is located in the northeastern Ethiopia in the Afar Region. Standing at 2,011 feet high, Erta Ale also known as the “smoking mountain” and “the gateway to hell,” is a constantly active basaltic shield volcano.
Globally, it is among a handful of continuously active volcanoes and uniquely so that it has two lava lakes.
Although in the past a visit to Erta Ale was only made possible by helicopter, tourists seeking an adrenaline thrill can access the areas of the volcanic eruption via road but must remain within 3-4 miles of the volcano.
Erta Ale was discovered in 1906, making it the longest known lava lake. When the lava spews, it forms fountains as high as 6-13 feet.
Located next to the historic architectural wonders of Lalibela is a delicate restaurant suspended on the edge of a jagged cliff. Those who have been at the scene of the restaurant describe it as looking like some sort of cooking pot or a bouquet of flowers.
The award winning restaurant specializes in traditional Ethiopian dishes and western delicacies and sometimes combining the two.
If not for tasting the mouth-watering dishes, you can visit the restaurant due to its location and its architectural design. With curved decks jutting out from the building’s central and spiraling staircase, customers can enjoy unobstructed views of the breathtaking river valley below.
Image credit: AFP Photo/Carl De Souza