We passed by the traditional steel-covered huts just big enough for one person to stand in, where people sold their goods, and thought it wasn't much more than what we've already seen here. But then we crested a hill and looked down on a huge merkato full of colours and sounds, and lots and lots of people!
(Above: Exterior of Biete Medhane Alem)
After lunch we found a guide and started our tour of the rock-hewn churches dug into the red sandstone of the mountain. According to our guide, every guide will give you a different reason or legend, King Lalibela built the churches to make a new Jerusalem in the hopes that Ethiopians would make the pilgrimage to Lalibela instead of the much longer journey to Israel. The 11 different churches are each dedicated to religious figures and are ornately carved. The pillars and reliefs inside were incredible! Unfortunately, we were slightly distracted by rumours that fleas live in the tapestries draped on the floors, so we hope hot water and soap kills them off!
|Interior of Biete Mariam|