Sunday, February 9, 2014

St. George's and Lalibela

This town has become a magnet for tourists so we are not the only "ferengi" in town. The big draw in Lalibela is the rock-hewn churches of which there are many for a community of this size. Perched on the side of a mountain, Lalibela has a lively market full of touts. Often the young men approach you offering their services as a guide. 

Brian and I went first to Bet Giorgis to tour the church and capture a picture of Brian's bike agin at the backdrop of the stone temple. We were stopped by an official who insisted that we must have a ticket to enter the premises. We were led by a tout to the ticket office where we learned that the fee was $50 U.S. per person. This is a steep form of spiritual materialism. Below, you can see the outline of the cross of St. George embedded in the earth. 

We carried on to visit other sites and while I minded Brian's bike, a swarm of teenage boys surrounded me asking to use the bike. Alas, in these circumstances, allowing the locals to take an expensive bike for a spin could end in tragedy, so I held on to it and indulged their banter.

One fellow, Moggis, tagged along and eventually led us to the Blue Nile restaurant where we had a feast of shiro wat with an assortment of dishes. The cook took a long time and the wait was well worth it. The quality of the food was excellent and we were brought a bowl of water to wash our hands before and after the meal. The Blue Nile is a basic wood structure that overlooks a rough dirt road.

To walk on the road in Lalibela is to gain an appreciation of the mix of concerns for a society in transition. While some youth have outdated mobile phones and wear western jeans, there are beggars and herdsmen who share the path. Read the sign below. Overpopulation is a real issue for a growing country that is vulnerable to cyclical drought. Though the country develops quickly, one wonders if the quality of life will improve for the majority.

And here is one of the aspiring students of Lalibela: Moggis. 

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