The small dusty town of Lalibela in the north of Ethiopia is home to some of Ethiopia’s most amazing sights, a collection of rock cut churches dating back hundreds of years. Often known as ‘Africa’s Petra’, Lalibela is a great centre of pilgrimage among Ethiopians, flocking here to worship, and during religious festivals is packed with priests and monks. Lalibela and the surrounding area are dotted with excellently preserved churches, still used today. Many of them are connected by underground tunnels and passages, with tiny caves hollowed out in nearby walls used as homes for ascetic monks and hermits who stay here for years on end. Many legends surround the origins of Lalibela, but the most popular is that they were constructed by angels in one night. The churches date back to the 11th and 12th centuries, and the most spectacular is Beta Giorgis, built in the shape of a cross in a large pit in the ground. Some contain ancient religious artefacts, which resident monks are often happy to show to visitors, including intricately decorated crosses and a wooden box said to be carved by King Lalibela.
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