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One day during our stay in Lalibela, a few of us visited a monastery just a few miles outside of town.
The Saint Neakutoleab Monastery is built in a cave nestled in the side of the mountain. Unfortunately due to it's location and the path to get to it, there was no real way to photograph the whole of it from outside. I was told that it dates from around the 15th century and also goes by the name Cave Church. This was a wonderfully tranquil place with a small but steady stream of believers coming in and out.
The resident priest was an interesting character. As soon as we walked in he quietly began setting up and laying out treasures to show us. He laid the treasures out with such quiet routine that I have to assume foreigners come here almost daily. Also interesting was the way in which he handled these ancient artifacts. He grabbed crowns, crosses, bibles and liturgical items as if he was rummaging through books at a library. "Here's the cross that was given to the monastery at it's founding" said in a bored, almost scripted way. This is a six hundred year old cross given by the king of Ethiopia! Items you would normally see behind glass at a museum were piled up in a cabinet.
The following day we left Lalibela and traveled six hours by bus to the lakeside town of Bahir Dar. We saw houses under construction, decorated donkeys and views that reminded me of the Desert Southwest.
We were supposed to fly from Lalibela to Bahir Dar, but Ethiopian Airlines decided to cancel the flight. I'm really glad they did because I would not have wanted to miss out on the beautiful scenery along the way.
For the next two days we woke early to jump on a boat and head out on Lake Tana. The lake is massive. There are islands throughout and many of them have monasteries built on them. Lake Tana is also the source of the Blue Nile, so it's impact on not only Ethiopian history but the history of Sudan and Egypt can't be underestimated. The lake is full of fish (mostly Tilapia), birds and even hippos. Going out in the early morning with fog still on the lake was so peaceful. The only people out were us and the fisherman in their papyrus boats.
The monasteries here were very different than the one we visited outside Lalibela. The buildings were round with a square inner room accessible only by the priest. They were no less fascinating or ornate.
After two days we flew back to Addis and ended our trip with a lovely dinner at the Jupiter hotel. I can't say enough about the people I traveled with; a truly talented and sharing group of photographers. I learned so much from David and Jeffrey, but also from viewing the work of my fellow participants. This trip profoundly affected the way I look through my camera. If you are looking to challenge yourself and improve your photographic eye, I can highly recommend a workshop like this. In fact, if you're thinking of taking a workshop like this you could do no better than David and Jeffery's Within the Frame. You can check them out here.
I hope that these posts gave you glimpse into Ethiopian life and culture. This was a once in a lifetime trip for me and I am so glad I can share it with you. Thanks for reading!