beauty designed by architects
The western portion of the woreda covers a region known as Gar’alta (Gere-alta). Gere-alta has always been an integral part of the former Enderta province, when Enderta was an independent province as well as when it was an awraja. During the imperial times (until 1975), the Gere-alta woreda consisted of the western parts of the current Hawzen and Kilte Awulaelo districts. The capital of the Gere-alta district was located at the town of Tsigereda, nowadays located in the western part of the Kilte Awulaelo district (south of the Hawzen district).
As described by Philip Briggs, the Gar’alta is “a fantastic spaghetti-western landscape of flat dry plains and towering rock outcrops” best known for its “35-odd rock-hewn churches, the largest concentration anywhere in Ethiopia.”
There are several monolithic churches in the woreda, including: Hawzen Tekle Haymanot (near Hawzen town); Abuna Yemata Guh and Debre Maryam Qorqor (near Megab); and Dugem Selassie, Abuna Abraham Debre Tsion and Yohannes Maikudi (near the village of Dugem).
Al Nejashi Mosque
Islam in Ethiopia dates back to the year 615 AD when the first Muslim, among them Prophet Mohammad’s wife came to Ethiopia as refugees fleeing suppression by the ‘Quraish’. Out of the good gesture of the then Ethiopian King, they were warmly welcomed and given refuge at Negash, a small village located 60 km east of Mekele, the capital of Tigray state.
In the book written on the biography of the Prophet Mohammed, Ibn Eshaq said the following:
“The Prophet Mohammed realized that he could not protect his followers form the attacks, and said ‘go to the Habesha, there is a Christian king there. There is justice in his kingdom. Habesha is the land of truth. Therefore, go there until we achieve victory with the help of Allah’ ”.
Amu Aymen, an Ethiopian woman, had influenced the psychology of the Prophet Mohammed. She was the slave of Abdalah Bin Abdul Mutolib. She was there when Abdalah married the prophet’s mother, Amina. In addition, Amu Aymen was behind Amina when she gave birth to the Prophet. While Amina went to visit her relatives in Medina, Amu Aymen feed her breast to the Prophet Mohammed. Amina could not come back to Mecca, rather passed away while she was in the middle of her journey. Since then, Amu Aymen along with Arabian mother Halima, became the second mother of the Prophet Mohammed. She nourished the Prophet while he was living with his grandfather Abdel Mutolib and his uncle Abu Tualib. The Prophet Mohammed witnessed this after he became matured by saying “she has been my second mother”.
Churkos Wukro: This crooked cruciform sandstone church is semi-monolithic and boasts beautiful cruciform pillars (notice the swirling sandstone laminae), cubical capitals, an outstanding Aksumite frieze and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. In 1958 Haile Selassie himself, apparently, ordered the angular roof squared with concrete for either aesthetic reasons or to protect the church from water seepage (which has severely damaged the geometric ceiling designs), depending on who you ask. It’s on the northern edge of Wukro, making it the most easily accessible church.
Abreha we Atsbeha: Architecturally speaking, this 10th-century church is one of Tigray’s finest. It’s large and cruciform in shape, with cruciform pillars and well-preserved 17th- and 18th-century murals and a wonderful wooden door. Some of the church treasures, including what’s believed to be King Atsbeha’s golden shoes, are properly displayed in glass cases in the adjacent museum. It’s by the road 15km west of Wukro or 23km from Megab.
The small town of Lalibela in Ethiopia is home to one of the world’s most astounding sacred sites: eleven rock-hewn churches, each carved entirely out of a single block of granite with its roof at ground level.
The town of Lalibela was originally known as Roha. It was renamed after the 12th-century King Lalibela, who commissioned these extraordinary churches. Lalibela was a member of the Zagwe dynasty, which had seized the Ethiopian throne around 1000 AD. When his rivals began to increase in power, Lalibela sought the support of the powerful Ethiopian Orthodox Church by building the churches in this small town.
King Lalibela’s goal was to create a New Jerusalem for those who could not make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (and to create a sacred city to rival powerful Axum, with its Ark of the Covenant). According to some reports, he had been to the Holy Land himself and was inspired by what he saw. But the king made no attempt to copy the churches of the Holy Land; in fact, Lalibela’s sacred architecture could not be more unique.
The churches of Lalibela were not constructed — they were excavated. Each church was created by first carving out a wide trench on all four sides of the rock, then painstakingly chiseling out the interior. The largest church is 40 feet high, and the labor required to complete such a task with only hammers and chisels is astounding.