CNN: Rock churches of Lalibela, the Jerusalem of Ethiopia

Have you heard of the rock churches of Lalibela? Instead of rising up above the ground, as most buildings do, they are reached by climbing long stairways down into the earth.

Rock churches of Lalibela, the Jerusalem of Ethiopia

From Errol Barnett, CNN

Lalibela, Ethiopia (CNN) — It’s 4 o’clock on a Sunday morning when a trail of figures dressed in white emerges from the deep darkness. Quietly, the summoned crowd makes its way down a cluster of ancient structures as the slow beat from traditional skin drums beckons.

It’s a common scene here in Lalibela, a small town in northern Ethiopia that’s home to 11 spectacular churches carved both inside and out from a single rock some 900 years ago. The chiseled creations have turned this mountain town into a place of pride and pilgrimage for worshipers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, attracting 80,000 to 100,000 visitors every year.

“It is one of the very important places for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church people,” says local guide Fikru Woldegiorgis, who’s lived here most of his life. “There is a belief that Lalibela pilgrims share the same blessing as pilgrims to Jerusalem,” he explains. “They have to come at least once in a lifetime.”

And they come from all over.

Read the complete article and see pictures and videos here.

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