I had a second visit from my family just before Easter. It was wonderful to see them all and spend time together. I took the opportunity to take a couple of days off and visit another beautiful area of the country with them. We went to see some of the Tigray rock churches, which are in the eastern part of the region. These were unknown by the outside world for a number of years and were built before those in Lalibela on the top of mountains throughout the area. I enjoyed visiting these churches far more than those in Lalibela – they are a treasure unexplored by many who come to Ethiopia.
We stayed at the wonderful Geralta Lodge which has fabulous views across the area.
The first church, Debre Tsion, we went to involved a bit of a climb up. It was well worth it though for the views and also the spectacular church. There were still original wall paintings visible as well as water-damaged pillars on the inside of the church.
The crosses and symbols used show the history of Christianity with Celtic and Maltese crosses present as well as the more traditional cross and local symbols. The main treasure of the church is a fan made in the 15th century. It was brought out by 2 monks and opened up very carefully!
The second church, Abraha Atsbeha, was closer to the road so no real climbing this time. We were lucky enough to arrive at the end of the mass. We crept in to see and hear the congregation and choir of priests for the final chanting. Following the end of mass we explored the church while the people enjoyed a meal together outside the church celebrating the monthly festival of the Saviour of the World.
On the way back to Axum we stopped at Debre Damo, a well known monastery here which is on top of a hill. Thank goodness women aren’t permitted to go up but my brother and father made the trip up and down with a rope tied around their waist!
The rest of the week was spent in Axum with my family exploring the sights and visiting schools while I was working. They did stop by the hospital though and bring a delivery of toys from the kind children of St Joseph’s Primary School, Wetherby. These have been much appreciated by the children and given them something to do while on the ward so thank you very much for your toy donations.