CNN: Rock Churches of Lalibela, the Jerusalem of Ethiopia

CNN's Errol Barnett reports from Lalibela, Ethiopia, about the famous rock-hewn churches built 900 years ago, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year. Lalibela has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978. (Photo: Flickr)


BY Errol Barnett

Lalibela, Ethiopia (CNN) — It’s 4 o’clock on a Sunday morning when a trail of figures dressed in white emerges from the deep darkness. Quietly, the summoned crowd makes its way down a cluster of ancient structures as the slow beat from traditional skin drums beckons.

It’s a common scene here in Lalibela, a small town in northern Ethiopia that’s home to 11 spectacular churches carved both inside and out from a single rock some 900 years ago. The chiseled creations have turned this mountain town into a place of pride and pilgrimage for worshipers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, attracting 80,000 to 100,000 visitors every year.

“It is one of the very important places for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church people,” says local guide Fikru Woldegiorgis, who’s lived here most of his life. “There is a belief that Lalibela pilgrims share the same blessing as pilgrims to Jerusalem,” he explains. “They have to come at least once in a lifetime.”

And they come from all over.

Read more at CNN.

Watch: Part One – Ethiopia’s Monolithic Churches

Watch: Part Two – Protecting Ethiopia’s Religious Sites

Watch: Part Three – Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians

Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela – UNESCO World Heritage Site

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