I had the distinct pleasure of joining a group of SCOPE board members and supporters in Lalibela for the weekend. Both the company and the location were wonderful.
A group of 7 Seattle-based SCOPE board members and supporters visited Ethiopia for about 1.5 weeks. They spent the bulk of their time in Gondar, meeting with SCOPE employees and stakeholders, visiting SCOPE program sites and health centers, and enjoying the local culture. Afterwards, they traveled to the Simien Mountains and Lalibela. Unfortunately, I was in the United States for my sister’s wedding during their time in Gondar and Simien Mountains, but was thankfully able to join them in Lalibela.
These 7 individuals were a true joy to spend time with. I must admit, I was a bit nervous to meet them as I wanted to ‘impress’ SCOPE board members and worried I wouldn’t be my best self after traveling across the world for over 24 hours. However, within minutes of meeting them, I felt completely comfortable and at ease. Each and every one of them took a special interest in Elizabeth and me – not only asking questions about our work as fellows, but also making an effort to get to know us on a personal level. Over the course of the weekend, we had wonderful conversations about SCOPE, their families and children, our work experiences, and our future goals. I really enjoyed spending time with this team and am incredibly grateful for their support. I look forward to a reunion when Elizabeth and I return in December!
Lalibela is truly a magical place! With incredible views and ancient rock-hewn Churches, there is plenty to explore and love. There were three distinct highlights to this weekend trip for me – the Hudad, the Churches, and the market.
The Hudad is a community based, ecologically sustainable lodge on top of a mountain. The lodge is only accessibly by mule or foot. As you will see in the pictures below we hired mules to carry us, and our belongings, to the top of the mountain. There were many young, local Ethiopians who joined our group, helping us stay balanced on the rocky trail. When we reached the top, we were greeted by a large group of monkeys! I was particularly fascinated by their behavior and enjoyed watching them interact with one another. In the evening, we sat around a fire and enjoyed a delicious meal. Prior to retiring to bed, the local staff performed a traditional ‘welcome’ ceremony, in which they washed all our feet with warm water – it was fantastic! We woke in the morning to clear blue skies and hot coffee. Surrounded by cliffs on all sides, the Hudad was a truly spectacular and memorable experience.
We returned from the Hudad and spent the afternoon and following morning exploring the ancient rock-hewn Churches. There are eleven monolithic cave Churches in Lalibela, all of which are equally impressive and beautiful. They were built during the reign of King Lalibela in the 12th century. There is a system of pathways and tunnels that link the Churches together, which adds an element of exploration to the visit. The Churches are rectangular in form and were built top-down into the rock, providing a safe space for Christians to pray that was hidden from invaders. Inside the Churches, the floor is covered with rug and the space lit by candlelight. Some Churches have ancient paintings on the wall of biblical scenes. As detailed, the architecture and historical significance of these Churches is fascinating; however, what I found most remarkable is that these Churches are still a place of worship today, nearly nine centuries later. The rock steps at the entrance to some of the Churches are so smooth you can tell they have been walked on for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Lastly, I want to highlight Elizabeth and my trip to the Lalibela market. From our hotel window, we could see the bustling market from afar and all the locals walking up a dirt path to reach it. We decided to take the same path, which dipped into the valley and then up a steep hill to the market. Arriving at the market, we were greeted by swarms of people selling grains and livestock. We wandered through the donkeys and goats to the shopping stalls, where we thoroughly enjoyed admiring the local textiles. The traditional clothing and scarves are made of white woven cotton infused with colorful designs – they are really beautiful!
Needless to say, I had a great time in Lalibela! The combination of beautiful scenery with wonderful travel companions made for a memorable weekend getaway. I hope the pictures below help illustrate our experience.