AFTER TRAVELING overland with two best friends to fourteen countries in Africa and the Middle East, Lalibela in Ethiopia, stands out as one of the most fascinating places we visited. Home to eleven monolithic churches, which were all carved down into the earth out of a single block of red volcanic rock, Lalibela is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its churches are some of the greatest architectural achievements in the history of the world.
It is said that after seeing Jerusalem taken by the Muslims in 1187, King Lalibela, who ruled Ethiopia for 40 years, commissioned these churches to be built with the intention of having Lalibela serve as a new Jerusalem. They are still in use today, home to priests, monks, and worshipers, and serving as a religious sanctuary for pilgrims who come from all over the world.
This article was originally published on january 22nd, 2010.