Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Church of a Different Color

Ethiopia has a rich religious tradition. While there is a smattering of Muslims throughout the country, many of the country’s inhabitants subscribe to Coptic Christianity. In addition to their belief that they possess the Ark of the Covenant, Ethiopia’s Coptic Christian tradition is one of rich and colorful art and elaborately decorated churches.

Some of the most vibrant examples, as well as some of the world’s oldest churches and monasteries, can be found on Lake Tana, just outside the city of Bahir Dar.

Round structures with massive thatch roofs, the monasteries are impressive even from an outside perspective. However, once you remove your shoes and enter the outer ring of the building, you are greeted by a vast array of artwork.

Depicting various scenes from the Bible, the floor-to-ceiling murals are full of life. Characters with huge almond-shaped eyes, elaborate animals, and intricate interpretations of stories, these paintings speak of a culture with religious passion.

Africa’s Camelot


Lavish castles are something you would expect to see when touring Europe, but are a bit more out of place in East Africa. Oddly enough, Ethiopia is home to a sprawling complex of castle and palace ruins.

Home to Ethiopia’s emperors and princesses during the 17th and 18th centuries, Gondar boasts an impressive array of fortress walls, castles, palaces, and royal baths. Strange though it may seem from a western historical perspective, the first castle was built in 1640.

It is a surreal experience to eat a meal of shiro and injera, have some locally brewed coffee, and then find yourself wandering among the massive walls of former castles.