Lalibela – Timkat Festival – January 19, 2012

>We flew up to Lalibela in the VERY early morning (3:30am wake up!!).

This town was the capital from the 10th century to the mid-13th century. King Lalibela reigned during the 12th century. Legend is that he had a dream to build many rock churches to make another “heavenly” Jerusalem.

There are 12 churches in this town that have been carved out of rock, the most impressive being St. George’s…

…carved 45 feet down into the granite rock…

Some of the churches are modest inside, while others are quite ornate, such as St. Maryam’s…

There were several musical groups playing throughout the various churches….

After seeing several of the churches and having lunch, we positioned ourselves for the Timkat procession which was about to start. As I mentioned previously, Timkat is the celebration of Christ’s baptism, which the Ethiopian Christians believe was when Christ became a part of the divine trinity, rather than when he was born. It wasn’t long before the procession came down the hill, with groups of these boys chanting (the guide told us later that they are not really a part of the Timkat celebration, but just join the festival to dance and chant)….they sometimes broke out in dance, just like 42nd street subway station….

The festival begins with the removal of the “tablets” (replicas of the ark of the covenant) from each church. Then the Christians, mostly in white gowns proceed to lead the procession though the town…

The tablets follow, protected by these silk and velvet umbrellas….

Each umbrella protects a tablet, or sometimes a high level priest from each church…

With the twelve rock churches in Lalibela, in such close proximity to each other, it makes this town’s festival that much more colorful…..

….then more townspeople follow.

This was a good time for everyone to join the procession, so I joined this group of women…

…this was the leader of the group….

…and this was the woman I walked beside…

Before long, I had picked up on the dance and chant, and was having a good time participating in the festival. One person from my tour group, Margaret from Queens, was sitting on the balcony of the hotel, and she picked me out in the crowd, singing and dancing with my new Ethiopian friends. What a blast! The women were quite surprised when I joined in the chant, as it was quite high pitched. Mom, you’d have been proud.

The crowd then proceeded to gather around several white tents….I could not even get close enough to capture that, but the priests chant and pray and bless people who are sick throughout the night…..and I mean the whole night!! (our hotel was right next door to the staging area!!!).

The remainder of the festival will continue tomorrow….

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Location:Lalibela, Ethiopia

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