The first time I saw the pilgrimage to Lalibela felt like a pilgrimage of my own. Days and days of driving north in what’s a far larger, far more mountainous country than I ever imagined. What I knew of Ethiopia could have been reduced to what I’d learned of it during the heartbreaking famine of the 1980s. A dustbowl. Black skin. Hollow eyes. Distended bellies. Endless dead and dying. Years later I drove through much of Ethiopia and discovered what the news had never shown me, a huge country with an incredible history, hospitable people, and truly beautiful light.
When the Land Cruiser pulled into Lalibela on Christmas Eve, it was like traveling back in time. We got out among throngs of white-robed pilgrims and yellow-robed priests, our ears full of the sounds of donkeys, drums, and the jangle of timbrels. Ancient rock-hewn churches full of worshippers and candle-light, the walls hung with thousand-year-old icons and tapestries. If I hadn’t had a camera around my neck I’d have sworn I was lost in time.
Lalibela is one of my favourite places on the planet, and I’d love the chance to show it to some of you. This January, Jeffrey Chapman and I will be guiding a small group back to Lalibela to explore and photograph this remarkable place. It’s not an easy trip if what you’re looking for is luxury. Luxuries are, thankfully, few and far between in this part of the world, unless luxury, to you, is the suspension of time, the chance to be a part of something extraordinary, and to photograph something you’ll see nowhere else. The hotels are mediocre at best, the food is an acquired taste, the internet is almost non-existent, and the best bottle of wine we found there claimed to have won an award from someone in Cold War-era East Germany. But the experience is hard to believe, and impossible to get anywhere else in the world.
If you’re looking for an adventure, we’ve got space for about 8 people, from January 03 to 10, 2014. We’ll be there for the arrival of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and the celebrations leading up to, and including, Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas. We begin in Addis Ababa, then fly together to Lalibela. If you want more information, get it here on Jeffrey’s Lalibela Within The Frame mini-site.
Here’s a few more images from my time in Lalibela over my past two trips.