Highlands of Tigray, Ethiopia (Summer 1973)

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While I was waiting in Mekele, the capital of Tigray, for a permit to travel to the Danakil desert, I heard for the first time of the old rock-hewn churches of Tigray (believed to have been built between the 4th and 15th centuries) and I decided that after my trek across the Danakil desert I would visit some of them. Many of them are located in a relatively compact area northwest of Mekele. In 1973, there was almost no road, so I did these visits by hiking from the town of Wukro located north of Mekele on the main road between Asmara and Mekele. In my opinion (after several other trips to Ethiopia and many other trips elsewhere), this is one of the most beautiful and culturally interesting regions of the world. The churches are gorgeous and highly diverse in shape, paintings and locations.




Landscapes of the Tigrayan highlands.

















Large euphorbia tree.





Orthodox priest.


Women and girls, some with a cross of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church tattooed on their foreheads.








Market scenes.





















Preparing and eating injera (Ethiopian bread).




Farmer bringing livestock back to farms.






Wukro Chirkos.


Mikael Debre Salam.


Inside the church of Mikael Debre Salam.


Partial view of the church of Abreha we Atsbeha.


Wall painting in Abreha we Atsbeha.


Site of Maryam Korkor.


Site and access of the rock-hewn church of Abune Yemata Guh in the Gheralta mountains.



Painting showing nine apostles on the cupola inside Abune Yemata Guh.



Paintings in Maryam Papaseit church: Saint George on a white horse (left) and Mary, Jesus, and Saints (right).


Illustrated bible (location unknown).


Picture of the inside of a (non-identified) church illustrating the amazing work that was required to carve the rock-hewn churches.


Access gate to a church (not identified, perhaps Maryam Papaseit).



Lithophones (stone bells).



People heading to a religious celebration.




Priests in front of their churches.





Men meeting and drinking tela (fermented barley) after a religious celebration.





Women staying outside the cave where men are meeting.




Click the following links to see other photos of my 1973 trip to Ethiopia:

-         Danakil desert

-          Port of Massawa

-          Semien mountains



Return to main Ethiopia 1973 page | Return to my mountaineering/trekking/travel webpage