What an adventure! Now that we’ve all made it back home safe and sound, here’s a sampling of the extraordinary places our Northern Ethiopian venture offered us!
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the fortress-city of Fasil Ghebbi was the residence of the Ethiopian emperor Fasilides and his successors. Surrounded by a 900-m-long wall, the city contains palaces, churches, monasteries and unique public and private buildings marked by Hindu and Arab influences, subsequently transformed by the Baroque style brought to Gondar by the Jesuit missionaries.
The fortress city functioned as the centre of the Ethiopian government until 1864. It has some twenty palaces, royal buildings, highly decorated churches, monasteries and unique public and private buildings, transformed by the Baroque style brought to Gondar by the Jesuit missionaries.
Simien National Park:
Massive erosion over the years on the Ethiopian plateau has created one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500 m. The park is home to some extremely rare animals such as the Gelada baboon, the Simien fox and the Walia ibex, a goat found nowhere else in the world. The spectacular scenery of the Simien mountains is considered to rival Arizona’s Grand Canyon.
The Simien Mountains are among the loftiest peaks in Africa, much of the plateau averaging over 10,000 feet above sea level. The extreme elevation ensures substantial rainfall during the wet season and the precipitous terrain thus translates to many large waterfalls, the Jinbar Waterfall perhaps being the most significant. Though the drainage isn’t huge, the falls more than make up for it in splendor, plunging at least 1600 feet into a canyon known as the Geech Abyss in a single wispy fall. The volume of the watercourse will vary substantially from season to season, but during the wet months, the falls can produce an immense amount of water.
In a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia, some 645 km from Addis Ababa, eleven medieval monolithic churches were carved out of rock. Their building is attributed to King Lalibela who set out to construct in the 12th century a ‘New Jerusalem’, after Muslim conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the holy Land. Lalibela flourished after the decline of the Aksum Empire.
The churches were not constructed in a traditional way but rather were hewn from the living rock of monolithic blocks. These blocks were further chiselled out, forming doors, windows, columns, various floors, roofs etc. This gigantic work was further completed with an extensive system of drainage ditches, trenches and ceremonial passages, some with openings to hermit caves and catacombs. All 11 churches were believed to have been completed in only 23 years.
Lucy… is the common name of several hundred pieces of bone representing about 40% of the skeleton of a female Australopithecus afarensis. In Ethiopia it is also known as Dinkinesh which means “you are marvelous” in the Amharic language. It was discovered in 1974 at Hadar in the Awash Valley of the Afar Triangle inEthiopia. In paleoanthropology, usually only fossil fragments are found and only rarely are skulls or ribs uncovered intact; thus this discovery was extraordinary and provided an enormous amount of scientific evidence. Lucy is estimated to have lived 3.2 million years ago, and is classified as a hominin.
St. George Cathedral… Commissioned by Emperor Menelik commemorating his stunning 1896 defeat of the Italians in Adwa, the Piazza St George Cathedral was completed in 1911. The Holy of Holies’ outer walls are covered in paintings and mosaics by renowned artists, like Afewerk Tekle. Also there is a museum which contains Ethiopia’s best collection of ecclesiastical paraphernalia outside St Mary of Zion in Aksum.
Ethiopia is a land of amazing people and extraordinary beauty. You can’t help but walk away from a place like this a much different person than when you arrived. While we may not speak the same language, their kindness, smiles, and hand-shakes tell us how much they really do appreciate all the work we put forth. We close the book on this year’s journey knowing we helped many, while at the same time, humbled by the profound kindness and human spirit we found everywhere at Project Mercy. We can only hope we gave as much to them as they gave to us.
Ahmesugenalew… A – MA – SE – GA – NA – LE – HU. (Thank You)
See you next year!