The 11 Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela.

Lalibela’s 11 churches are carved out of a hillside, which is made of soft reddish volcanic rock. The churches can be divided into two complexes—a northern and a southeastern complex—that are connected through a series of carved passageways and naturally occurring wadis.

Six churches are featured in the northern complex and four in the southeastern complex. The 11th church—Beta Giyorgis (Church of St. George)—stands alone and is not part of either interconnecting complex.

The northern complex is composed of 6 churches.

Beta Madhane Alem (Church of the Savior of the World)

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Beta Maryam (Church of Mary)

 

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Its two weeks of fasting and churches here were very buy with worshipers coming to pray.

Beta Masqal (Church of the Cross)

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Beta Danagel (Church of the Virgins)

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This is the only church that we couldn’t enter, it is being renovated.

Beta Mika’el (Church of Michael)

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Beta Golgotha (Church of Golgotha)

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The southeastern complex consists of four churches.

Beta Emmanuel (Church of Emmanuel)

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I took this picture from across the bridge, my wife could not handle the height, so she ren.

Beta Abba Libanos (Church of Father Libanos)

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Beta Merkurios (Church of Mercurius)

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Beta Gabriel and Beta Rafa’el (the twin churches of Gabriel and Raphael)

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Located west of the other complexes, the final—and most famous—rock-hewn church of Lalibela is (11) Beta Giyorgis (Church of St. George).

Shaped like a cross, Beta Giyorgis sits on a stepped platform inside a 72-by-72-foot courtyard that is 36 feet deep. Originally, it was accessible only from the west by means of a long approach—measuring nearly 100 feet—that led uphill and connected the church to the wadi below.

Standing at the same level as the church, it is not immediately apparent that Beta Giyorgis is shaped like a cross, but from above, it becomes clear that not only is it shaped like a cross, but that Greek crosses have been carved into its roof as well. Beta Giyorgis has three doors and twelve windows.

This is the masterpiece by king Lalibela.

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This master peace can be seen from very far, the view from up here is breathtaking.

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Each of the windows is adorned by a cross and floral motif carved in relief above its opening. An additional nine false windows are carved into the exterior of the church at the same level as the doors, but they do not open into the church’s interior. Of all the churches at Lalibela, Beta Giyorgis is the best preserved.

Dated to the late 12th or early 13th century, it is also one of the latest churches at the site. The other churches are estimated to have been built over a span of several centuries—from the 10th through the 13th centuries or later.

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#FreeBobiWine Concert @ PAWA254.

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Yesterday I attended #FreeBobiWine concert at PAWA254. The musician-turned MP was arrested last week sparking violent clashes between Ugandan police and protesters.

Since his surprise election to parliament as an independent candidate in July 2017, under his popular “People Power” slogan, the self-styled “Ghetto President” has continued using his fame and influence to speak out against the decades-long rule of Museveni, whom he accuses of being a “dictator”.

Political tensions rose further last week when Kyagulanyi was arrested in northern Uganda and his driver shot dead amid clashes between opposition supporters and security forces.

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Good citizens around the world have gone online to voice their support with calls to #FreeBobiWine. There would also a march to Uganda’s High Commission offices in Riverside, Nairobi on Wednesday, August 22, in protest of the oppression meted on the Ugandan Opposition politician.

The illegal arrest and detention of Bobi Wine has gotten the full attention of the world with the Washington saying that they are monitoring the situation closely.

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Many young people of Uganda have never known how it feels to have a different president. President Yoweri Museveni has been in power for the last 34 years, his intention is to be there forever.

A few people are seeing this as the last days of Mr Museveni. Time will tell. It’s important to understand that the energy of the young is the energy that builds a country or brings it down.

A Visit to the African Jerusalem-Lalibela.

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I always listen to BBC in the morning, 6:00am. It is a 30 minutes swahili news that has been on for as long as I can remember. Many years back, maybe 5, there was a feature on the rock carved churches of Lalibela. That morning still in my sleep, I told myself, I have to visit this place – Lalibela.

Many things have changed since then. Meles Zenawi the then Prime Minister Died, Hailemariam Desale was forced to step down and now Abiy Ahmed has taken the reign of leadership in Ethiopia.

Under Desale, Ethiopia and Kenya agreed to rescind the visa requirements for Kenyan business travellers in July 2015 making it possible to travel without the trouble of acquiring a visa. It’s only Djibouti and Kenya who can travel to Ethiopia without a visa.

It was then time for me to travel. Maybe you have had about Genna, the Christmas in Ethiopia that happens every January 7th. Maybe you have not, then we cannot blame you, because this was not the reason for my visit to Lalibela.

Our journey started in Bahir Dar, 5am in the morning aboard Level 1 bus. It was dark, but i am starting to get used to Ethiopia’s early morning travel. At 4:30am it was just me and my wife in the bus, but some seats had been marked for occupation. Then people started walking in one by one. Then it was Glen, the tourist from China.

The bus was about full when we finally departed at 5am. At sunrise, it was easy to see Lake Tana as it welcomed a new day. The journey took us to Dabre Tudor, then to the hills and mountains, to the clouds and back and we were finally in Gachena……65km from Lalibela. This was our fueling station.

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We took sometime to get something to eat and interact with other passengers, at least those that were easy to talk to. Its not common to find English speakers in Ethiopia, many have only managed a few English words. Amharic is what they know and what they speak.

From Gachena it was 65km of semi-tarmac road. Parts of it are still unders contraction so they were really challenging to the car. Some parts are complete. I said to myself…..looking at the amount or construction taking place. The people who will visit Lalibela years to come will have an easy way, especially if they will be using the road.

The landscape is breathtaking. Its one waterfall, then two and suddenly three….all on one mountain. Our driver with years of coming to Lalibela could manage the terrain very well. It seemed far to me, maybe more than 65 km but at about 2pm we arrived at the small town.

The bus park is a long way out of the town. When we arrived, we had to take a Tuk Tuk to our hotel. There are no taxi….just Tuk Tuks and some few personal cars. Lalibela relies purely on tourism so everything is designed to attract you into blowing your dollars.

There is an airport 25km away making it very easy for those who don’t want to endure a whole day on the road, or just dont have the time to do so. A few minutes later we settled ourselves at Villa Lalibela and 5 minutes from the villa, there was Kana restaurant. We made it our home too.

In the evening we walked around, and just saw the churches we were to tour from afar. With the help of a young student we were able to walk to the second group of churches and from the top of the hill, we had a view of the famous St George Church.

The hotel organized a tour guide for us, and we agreed to start the tour 8am the following morning. We went to bed, after a long day of travelling. It has not been possible to travel to Lalibela from Addis Ababa in one day unless you are flying.

But for us we managed to include Bahir Dar into our itinerary making it possible to have a day to Bahir Dar and a day to Lalibela. If you want to have discounted fares on domestic, its advisable to book Ethiopian Airlines on the international flight. Ethiopians or those with International tickets get discounts only enjoyed by citizens.

 

 

The Road To Bahir Dar and Gondor.

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The view of the new bridge

Many reviews online discourage you travelling in Ethiopia on the bus. But my friend Glen says “A good tourist takes the Bus” and thats what we did. Truly we did not even look for a bus office, it just found us.

We were changing some money and I asked the lady where to buy a sim card, she pointed at the building opposite. I asked again, where to find the bus to Bahir Dar and she said the same building.

It was like a “one stop shop”.

The reason why were are going to Bahir Dar is because its not possible to do Lalilela in one day. I found somebody who has done it, but it was by luck. Bahir Day became our fuelling station in between trips to Lalibela…….the highlight trip.

But Bahir Dar has a lot to offer, what is called the Blue Nile is born here…..right in the middle of the Lake Nile. There are two island on the lake where the monks have made a home, build churches and made it holy place.

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3am International time, 9pm Ethiopian time.

Bahir Dar also has the Blue Nile Falls, one of the biggest………it used to be before Ethiopia build a power plant on it diverting 75% of the water leaving the falls with only 25%. But even that is really big.

The trip to the falls is very expensive, you have to hire a private car, pay entrance fee and pay for a guide. You can decide to go there by boat which you pay or by trekking though the mountain. Time is of essence here.

Back to the bus.

We woke up at 3am which was 9pm Ethiopian time. Our taxi took us to Meskal Square where the bus picks and drops people. The bus was ready…..but it did not leave until 6am. Bahir Dar is 495 km from Addis, 10 hours on route 3 and route 30.

The road takes you to Africas most beautiful landscapes. The say Rwanda is the land of a thousand hills, I think Ethiopia is the land of a million hills.

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We travelled to the cloud and back.

The hills and mountains are endless, with rivers meandering in between and the landscape breath taking. Two sights where the bus will stop for you to take pictures are the waterfalls and the recently completed bridge by the Ethiopian government in partnership with Chinese government. The views are to die for.

The bus was comfortable. With two screens we watched everything the driver wanted us to watch. We even watched The Gods Must be crazy 2 which was really funny. Everyone gets a soft cake and two bottles of 600ml water.

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Finger of God

Bathroom brakes are just in the bush, the bus stops somewhere, the conductor announces 5 minutes of bathroom break and we are all in the bush.

The interesting thing about Ethiopia is that its very common to see people taking their bathroom break on the side of the road…..man and women. The only place you will find a real bathroom is when you stop for lunch…that will be in a restaurant.

Its also common to see people showering along the rivers, and when I say rivers….Ethiopia has millions of them.

After 10 hours of sight seeing, three bathroom breaks, one lunch break, dozing and waking up….we were finally in Bahir Dar. My wife said it felt like being at the coast of Mombasa…..for me it just felt Bahir Dar.

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Breakfast

The lake is 10 minutes walk from where we were staying, the street busy with Hotels and restaurants and its here that we planned our trip to Gonder and Lalibela.

We were in Bahir Dar first three nights then one night after Lalibela. The first day we visited the Lake and in the afternoon the waterfalls. The following day, 5am in the middle of the pouring rain we were picked with a van headed to Gondor.

The road to Gondor starts from the shoes of Lake Nile, just like other roads in Ethiopia, its full of beautiful landscapes married with endless rivers. Everybody competes for the road, the vehicles on one hand, the animals on the other……dogs, donkeys and horses. The casualties always the dogs…..but sometimes the vehicles too. There are two beautiful sights on this road, the finger of God and the nose of David.

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Castle in Gondor

Our car stops in the a small shopping centre, the conductor jumps out and after a few minutes he is back with a plate full of bread. Its breakfast…….with his smile I know the bread is on the house, everybody gets it, and we continue with the journey.

We arrived in Azezo and are greated by a small town, here the horse has the right of way. As a common means of transport here, they are everywhere and its difficult for the car to manoeuvre the road.

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The road is for everyone.

We finally after 187 km see the Castle standing right in front of us, and we knew we were in Gondor. The air was fresh, the view from the top of the castle was breathtaking and the people were nice and friendly.

Life was just good in Gondor, and my wife was still with me.

Addis Ababa First on The List.

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The “Red Terror” Martyrs’ Memorial Museum in Addis Ababa was established in 2010 as a memorial to those who died during the Red Terror under the Derg government. 

It is my first time in Addis Ababa, and my first day on our (my wife and I) trip in Ethiopia. When I arrived, I was eight years back in time, I left Nairobi on 3rd of August 2018 and here I was 27th November 2010. I felt young, I felt God has been gracious to me with time. In November 2010 I was planning fo my first trip to South Africa which I took in January 2011…..and here I was again…..November 2010

“If I was stranded on a desert island & could only bring one thing. I would bring Dora, that b*tch has everything in her backpack”.

If you are a backpacker, you have probably came across this quote. I don’t think I can call myself a backpacker, but am willing to learn, so together with my wife and our backpacks we will be travelling to some of the most remote locations in Ethiopia.

Float on the blue nile in Bahir Dar, rule from the castle of Gondar and worship at the new Jerusalem in Lalibela. We will travel on budget, avoid luxury of star hotels, eat street food and try to meet fellow backpackers and make friends. After all this, we intend to come back home tired but alive and full of memories that will encourage us to plan our next trip.

Addis Ababa is an interesting city, its a combination of the old and the new. Tall skyscrapers live harmoniously with traditional mud houses. Traditional food like Injera as it found out can be served at the same place Pizza is being served. The Metro…just like a Cobra snake runs along the road populated by the blue Mini bus called Taxi.

Sometimes it is raining and sometimes it is sunny…..and thats just how Addis is. I asked a friend who has been here for a few months if she has adjusted, she said NO, you don’t adjust in Addis, you come stay and leave Addis the way it is.

Old cars run a longside the new. Its common to see the VW Beatle, well maintained without modification. The Beatle is a historic car for Ethiopia. In 2nd February 1974 (not Ethiopian Calendar) Addis streets were filled Beatles of Taxis drivers striking the high price of fuel. The last Emperor Heile Selassie was hustled away to a military barracks in a blue VW Beatle.

The Beatle might have died where it was born but here in Addis, its alive and kicking a**.

All instructions in the university are in English, but the language that rules here is Amharic. Its difficult to get your way around, but if you are a backpacker…..you always find a way.

Twice somebody has attempted to pick pocket me around Stadium, the first time shouting at the top of my voice I threw him a jab, the second time my wife lifted the tennis racket she was carrying…..the guy retreated really fast.

People love Ethiopia for the food, boy they can make some really nice food. You would believe from the way they make their pizza that they invented it. When it arrives its half chicken and half beef……just the way you ordered, with chilly at the centre. Interestingly, they love to eat Injera with their hands but when it comes to pizza…its folk and knife business.

Coffee is a big thing here and it comes in all form and choice. Whether you are having it in an uptown restaurant in Bole or a roadside makeshift spot in Yeka. You got to respect the coffee and the coffee tradition.

Enough with the food and culture, the sight seeing……

The first thing on my list was Lion of Judah Monument. Nobody new where it was and nobody was caring. We went to Addis Abeba Museum instead, it turned out to be great to learn the history on Addis once called Addis Abeba.

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We have tried to learn as much history of this country that was never colonised as we possibly can, we have also made friends. Angel from Bulgaria whom together with his backpacking friend Liu from China are touring eight countries. A Chinese cyclist who has cycled from China and he is headed to South Africa.

A young guy from Senegal playing professional football here and a Kenyan working with the department of gender at the African Union….and yes, we have seen that building present the Chinese government gave Africa.

The Metro is a game changer for this city. It moves people in four different directions with two connections. Trust me, there are countries in Africa who will not have this in 2050, whether it is Ethiopian year or European year.

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Technologically, Ethiopia is still in Kenya’s 2010, when we had only one mobile telco, with an option of 2G or 3G network and internet that was slower than the tortoise race. I am trying to make sure I publish this article today, tomorrow we are off to Bahir Dar and I am not sure what is ahead.

I have a lot to share, but this time I am running out of time. I have missed one cup of coffee already. I am not sure how long the internet is here for, we had a disconnection in the morning and when I asked at the reception what was the problem…..the lady answering in borrowed English just said “company problems”

My wife needs to edit this post before I publish and I am being reminded by yours truly…I need to set the alarm for tomorrow. Our bus is for 4:30am International time.

I will see you the other-side of Bahir Dar.

 

Cycling in Kenya Finally Getting Good Attention.

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A few weeks ago, Nairobi Women Representative Esther Passaris picked up her bike together with a team of cyclist and she took on the roads of Nairobi. This journey took her from her house in the suburbs of Kitisuru to the parliament building, about 11km.

Passaris is a lady of many firsts, her organization “Adopt A Light” was on the forefront in lighting Nairobi city. The city was in the dark and unsafe those many years ago. With a technology imported from South Africa, street by street we could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Passaris after her cycling session said she would engage potential sponsors to see that willing Nairobians are loaned or rented bikes and champion legislation that will make the roads safer for cyclists.

She did not stop, on Saturday I saw her rocking her bike in the streets of Nairobi campaigning for regulations that will make Nairobi a better city for cycling. nI am reminded of days I used to commute 50km everyday on my bike. Mombasa road was a real monster for me, every morning and evening.

When you cycle on Mombasa road, (many times) you get initiated by the toughness it brings.  I became very tuff, I prayed a lot, and I learnt more and more how to put my instincts at work, and the power of intuition….when it says stop! I stop.

It was also fun to be on the bike those years, I saved money, I kept time of my appointment and everywhere I went, I had to tell a story of how am cycling on Mombasa road.

Today, I don’t do that as much as I would like to, but that doesn’t mean that I am done. Big things came but small things stay the same. I am glad that with people like Passaris in parliament, we are on a good road to reaching our goal of a green Nairobi, I mean the road has started.

It has been estimated that 90% of urban air pollution in rapidly growing cities in developing countries is attributable to motor vehicle emissions (UNEP, 2011) so while there are many sources of air pollution in Nairobi, including open air burning of refuse and biomass (Gatari, 2006), industrial operations and domestic cooking fires, motor vehicles play a critical role in the problem.

The county government in a plan to handle the traffic menace said they will be burning driving two days in a week. On this days, commuters will be encouraged to either cycle to work or use public transportation.

As citizens of Kenya and as Naironians, and most importantly as cyclist, we will keep pushing the government to make sure they put up infrastructure that supports cycling, regulations that keep cyclists safe and event awareness on how to share the road.

With members of parliament joining this fight, there is light at the end of the tunnel for cyclists.

 

How We Killed the Pioneer Car.

If you are fortunate, like me, maybe privileged and one day you arrive in Italy. It’s the beginning of winter but still that doesn’t break your spirit, you went ahead and toured Italy, walked the streets, eat the food and most importantly admired the cars, I mean the Fiat.

The Birth of FIAT

But the real history of Italian cars begins after Italy unified into a nation when? on July 11, 1899, F.I.A.T. (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) was founded as a company, after acquiring other major Italian brands.

The first model produced by Fiat was the Fiat 3 ½ HP. Built in 1899 by design engineer Aristide Faccioli from an inspiration he received from his previous drawing of the Welleyes, the 3 ½ HP had a maximum power output of just 3.5 hp and 400 rpm. Fiat produced just eight copies of the automobile, a far reach from what modern automotive assembly lines can churn out, but at the end of 19th Century, the car was not a common good, but a luxury that only a wealthy few could afford. The 3 ½ HP was not equipped with a reverse gear and its frame was made of wood.

A few years later Fiat achieved the first of many victories in car racing with the help of Vincenzo Lancia, winning the Torino Sassi-Superga in 1902. In subsequent years, Vincenzo Lancia was to create his own car company.

Today, the streets of Italy are filled with Fiats, something to really admire. Italians have gone ahead to develop worlds best sports cars racing in different grand pix all over the world.

Pioneer Car

Many of you might not know or remember the Nyayo Car. The Pioneer was to be Africa’s first independently developed car, and the project was started with this amazing quote from Kenya’s then president: he asked for the development of a car, “no matter how ugly or slow it may be.” This must be borrowed from many quotes, The need for a people’s car – VW Beatle or a cheap car for everyone as long as it came in one colour – Ford. Elon Mask said “when Henry Ford made cheap and reliable cars people said, nah! whats wrong with the horse? That was a huge bet he made and it worked”

There’s something really refreshing about hearing this sort of brutal honesty when it comes to cars. Everything that any car company says about their cars or the origin of their company is almost invariably a string of overwrought hyperbole that proclaims their cars to be the finest, noblest, wheeled saviours of humanity. So hearing one exasperated leader plead with a university to develop any ugly, slow car they could be remarkable.

One of the remaining of the Pioneer car rests at Numerical Machining Complex at the Railway Godown in Industrial area. It’s been almost 40 years since the Pioneer car and just last week I managed to see it with my eye.

The University managed, after four years and a bunch of money, to develop five prototypes: a five-door sedan, a sedan with a trunk, a pickup, a sports coupe, and even a rally version. The cars look pretty conventional for the time, and seem to be transverse, FWD cars in keeping with many economy cars of the era.

They used a 1200cc engine designed locally and the Pioneer could make about 75 MPH with it, with the state of roads we had then remember. So, not really all that slow, and it wasn’t even particularly ugly, either.

The start of the Nyayo car might have not been good, Only two of the five cars that were displayed at the Kararani Sports Complex could start, and when the President jumped in one of them he could not manage more than 400 mitres.

The Nyayo Pioneer was an engineering disaster, many people said. The headlights, bumpers and boot did not come together neatly, and the car lacked the finesse you would expect from a consumer product.

Eventually, the factory built for the cars was sold to another firm, and in some ways that did become successful, becoming one of Africa’s first and comparatively few plants capable of producing automotive and locomotive parts, lathe equipment, and other machinery.

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In this country, people will kill something and they will surely make sure that its dead. I agree that this was a disaster, but at least it was the start. I have travelled a little and I can tell you that I have come across a lot of automotive disasters, AMC Gremlin – 1970 Ford Pinto on the same year, Fiat Maltipla – 1998, Ford Explorer – 1995, Lamborghini LM002 (1986).

When Kenya was making their First automobile disaster, Lamborghini too were making theirs. The difference between Lambo and Kenya is that they learnt from their mistakes, WE DID NOT.

Today Lamborghini is the fastest car, if not one of the fastest cars, made in Italy and sold all over the world, the FIAT, rules the streets of Italy, while in Kenya we still import cars from Japan.