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5 General Facts About Lalibela (Ethiopia)

Travelers Today       By    FG Dullin

Updated: Jan 27, 2017 10:06 AM EST

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Everyday Life In Ethiopia
LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA - MARCH 19: Visitors walk past Bete Giyorgis, also called St. George's Church, at the Lalibela holy sites on March 19, 2013 in Lalibela, Ethiopia. Lalibela is among Ethiopia's holiest of cities and is distinguished by its 11 churches hewn into solid rock that date back to the 12th century. Construction of the churches was begun by Ethiopian Emperor Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, who sought to create an alternative pilgrimage site after the Muslim occupation of Jerusalem. Lalibela was the capital of Ethiopia until the 13th century.
(Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

People who often travel to Ethiopia has a number of reasons to do so, but one of the most popular motivations drawing them is the UNESCO Heritage City of Lalibela. Anyone who plans to visit Ethiopia may not have known anything about this cultural jewel. Here are the interesting 5 facts about Lalibela:

Lalibela: The City

Before this city was named as such, the area that remains to be a stalwart hub of early Christianity was once known as Roha. Prior to the early middle ages, this place was just one of the many inconsequential hamlets in the ancient Nubian civilization. Now, the city of Lalibela is the second holiest city in the Ethiopian Christian sect after Axum. As of 2007, the population of Lalibela has grown to 17,367 - thanks to its iconic rock-carved churches.

Lalibela: The Churches

To think of Lalibela without its iconic rock-carved churches would be unimaginable. In fact, it is because of these sacred structures that a vibrant religious community thrives up to this day. As far as history is concerned, the 11 megalithic churches of early Christianity were constructed between the 12th Century and the 13th Century AD.  

Lalibela: The UNESCO

Although the churches in Lalibela were already centuries years old, they were only inscribed in the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites during the year 1978. The 11 churches qualified under the three basic criteria: exceptional artistry (i), regional and cultural connection with other places (e.g. Jerusalem) (ii), and a testimony to the host territory's civilization (iii). The namesake of this important pilgrim site of early Christianity left an indelible mark in Ethiopia's history and legends.

Lalibela: The King

Gebre Mesquel Lalibela reigned as emperor of Ethiopia in the 13th Century. Prior to his ascension to the throne, his baptismal name was derived from the phrase 'the bees recognize his sovereignty.' King Lalibela is best known for commissioning the creation of the namesake monolithic churches - a fact seldom known by tourists who travel to Ethiopia.

Lalibela: The Legend

Until today, there is little definitive explanation as to how the churches were built. But legend has it that King Lalibela got the inspiration when he saw Jerusalem in his lucid dreams. It was even believed that the construction of the magnificent churches in Lalibela was only possible with the aid of the 'angels.'  


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