The catch was, he needed to build the churches out of solid rock dug from the ground. Thankfully, as Molla said, he had the angels to help him because it's pretty inexplicable how these churches were built, in such a fashion, 900 years ago.
We happen to be in Lalibela at a wonderful time. I mentioned yesterday, that we have received many warm welcomes but we have also received many "Happy New Year's!" Which is very kind since it is not Ethiopian New Year (that is September 11th - they have their own Calendar and it's 2007 right now - I'm not joking - I'm only 34!). It is actually only a few days before Christmas here. Pilgrims are flocking the streets, having walked (many barefoot) for 1-3 weeks to get to Lalibela for Christmas. When they reach the city, their feet are washed (as Jesus washed the disciples' feet) and they are fed. They are then given a place to camp (I'll show photos of those places below).
Before meeting Molla at the churches, he sent a tuk tuk (or Bajaj as it's known in Ethiopia) driver to take us to the Saturday Market first. It was a warren of pathways and stalls, selling everything from Ethiopian football kits to spices to donkeys to honey.
We first climbed a hill, named Mt. Sinai, before walking to the churches.
Now I will show you the best church - Beta Giyorgis (or the Church of St. George). It is one of the most amazing sites I've seen. It's so precisely made that I can't imagine how it could possibly have been carved by one piece of solid rock.
Your feet are bare because your shoes are outside. The precisely carved rock of the walls is not the same rock as the floor. The rock of the floor is much harder and stronger and much more uneven. So you are walking barefoot over uneven, hard rock with thin, red carpet laid down upon it. The interior is quite dim with Priests sitting down ready to bless people (we received blessings) with their hand crosses. Pilgrims come in and kiss the doorway three times before crossing the threshold and kneeling. Women are ululating because (as Molla put it) even though their body is exhausted from the long trip, their spirit is so happy to be there. Orthodox Masses are said inside the churches at different times and there are separate chanting rooms for women and men. We weren't there for a Mass. The walls have carvings, paintings, and canvas paintings of scenes from the Bible and Icons.
I hope that gives you some idea of what it's like. It really was an amazing day. We were all really tired by the end of it. We really recommend our guide Molla Kassaw. If you're ever in Lalibela and are looking for a guide, you couldn't do better!
For the next two days, we are just taking it easy. Then we head to Lalibela Hudad for a four nights on a mountain. They don't have electricity there, so there won't be any blog posts! We'll try to get in a post before we leave for the mountain and we'll be posting about the Hudad from our next stop of Axum, Ethiopia on January 10th or so.
As always, thanks so much for reading!!