This photo shows Yemrehanna Kristos Church, built underground in northern Ethiopia
A village on the hill up to the church

Whilst staying in Lalibela, we took an afternoon trip by minibus to visit Yemrehanna Kristos, 45km north of the town.  The drive took almost two hours due to the uneven road surface.  The scenery we drove through was spectacular, but without Christie’s stability and large picture windows, we were unable to take photos en route.

When we finally arrived at the site, I quickly realised that I wouldn’t be able to see the church we had come to visit.  Our guide, Shamble, had said it was a twenty-minute walk from where we would have to leave our minibus, but he failed to mention that it was twenty minutes uphill!  This was despite me asking the specific question – “Is it flat?”  Anyway, with my knee still very sore, I handed the camera to Mark and waited at the ticket office whilst the rest of the group went on.


The view from the ticket office – this is as far as I went!

I spent the time chatting to Abraham, the man in charge of the ticket office.  He told me that he earns 400 Birr a month (about $20).  With his parents dead, and no siblings to help him, he lives with his grandparents and supports them in their old age.  He had such love and pride in his eyes as he described his ninety-year old grandfather to me and told me about his stories of Ethiopia under Italian occupation.  It was fascinating for me to hear, yet tinged with sadness because Abraham’s own life seems to be on hold.  He can’t afford to marry and have a family whilst he is caring for his grandparents.

As for the church, Mark took the photos which accompany this post.  Yemrehanna Kristos is one of Ethiopia’s best-preserved late-Aksumite buildings.  It pre-dates Lalibela’s churches by about 80 years, so is likely the blueprint used for their construction.  Rather than being excavated out of the rock like they are, though, Yemrehanna Kristos was built within a cave from alternating wood and stone layers, giving it a very attractive exterior.  Behind the church, there is a pile of mummified bodies – some are believed to be workers who helped build the church and others are pilgrims who went there to die.  Mark said it was far too dark to be scared by the sight and no photography was allowed.
Yemrehanna Kristos


Pilgrims at Yemrehanna Kristos

After stopping to enjoy a coffee ceremony, we returned to Lalibela, driving through a very lively wedding party on the way!

This picture shows a group of men celebrating a wedding in northern Ethiopia
The wedding party

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