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Map of Ethiopia
Map of Ethiopia

Lalibela town, 2,600 metres, with the Secondary School`s two new three-tiered classroom blocks in centre of picture
Lalibela town, 2,600 metres, with the High School`s two new three-tiered classroom blocks in centre of picture.

Mount Asheton, nearly 4,000 metres, towering over Lalibela
Mount Asheton, nearly 4,000 metres, towering over Lalibela

Magnificent scenic view along airport road to Lalibela town
Magnificent scenic view along airport road to Lalibela town.

The view from our hotel bedroom!
The view from our hotel bedroom!

Ben Abebe restaurant
Ben Abebe restaurant.  This futuristically designed Ethiopian restaurant has recently opened on the outskirts of town.  It has the most magnificent panoramic views.

Ethiopia lies in the Horn of Africa, a landlocked country surrounded by Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya and Sudan. It is five times the size of the United Kingdom with poa population of over 112 million. UK has sixty seven million. Christianity was introduced in the fourth century. Both Christians and Moslems live in relative harmony, although there are always terrorist risks as they are surrounded by warring countries.  English is the second language to the local dialects. Ethiopia`s proud boast – though a mixed blessing – is that it is the only African country never to be colonised by the European nineteenth-century rush for a slice of Africa.  Ethiopia, the eleventh largest country in Africa, has the second highest population - only Nigeria is bigger.


Economically Lalibela depends on tourists visiting the two clusters of twelfth-century underground rock-hewn churches. Twelve churches have been carved out of the bare rock landscape or the side of the rockface – an incredible achievement. No one to this day has satisfactorily explained how such a mammoth project was completed.

Over 500,000 Ethiopians in the Lalibela catchment area, dependent on subsistence farming, struggle with the inhospitable landscape, infertile rocky topsoil, floods and droughts exacerbated by climate change.

Tragically this landscape was the site of the 1984 Ethiopian famine. The world was alerted to the disaster by Michael Buerk on BBC1 news – “Dawn, and as the sun breaks through the piercing chill of the night …. it lights up a biblical famine, now in the twentieth century. This place, workers say here, is the closest thing to hell on earth.” The famine prompted Bob Geldoff to start Band Aid. An estimated 400,000 in the highlands starved to death.

Access to Lalibela has improved since the 1997 construction of an all-weather airstrip. Previously, the airstrip could only accommodate light aircraft. During the rainy season (June to September) the airstrip flooded and roads were impassable from heavy rains and landslides. Daily tourist flights and improved gravelled roads have facilitated access. Over the last 10 years there has been a noticeable increase in the number of tourists and good quality hotels.

The town`s perimeter spreads out over adjacent hills. The church authorities have moved many poor, elderly people from their huts in the church compound to better housing on the outskirts - possibly to aesthetically improve the tourist`s appreciation of the "church experience."  Unfortunately those very devout elderly Christians whose lives have revolved around daily worship are no longer able to walk the two kilometres to church.Church admission for tourists now cost $50 but allows return visits for a few days.

The centre of Lalibela has recently undergone modernisation with many paved roads but tuk-tuks are forbidden in the town centre! 

Four years ago, a Chinese encampment on the airport road houses the many workers building the major highways infrastructure.
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