Thousands of of dedicated Christians clamber up sheer cliffs of Gheralta Mountains to pray in hidden rock-hewn ancient Orthodox churches in Ethiopia.
By Laura Mowat (Daily Express) |
The sandstone cliffs of Gheralta in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia, which are 2580m tall, are the home to 35 hidden churches, some of which date back to the fourth century.
The climbs to reach the churches carved out of solid rock are arduous and involve near-vertical cliff faces at times and steep 300-metre ledges, particularly to reach the Abuna Yemata Church.
Although tourists occasionally use harnesses and ropes to help with the strenuous climb, the locals do not.
The churches, which are located 780kms north of Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa, are visited each Sunday by around 50 people each and when there are religious festivals, this figure can rise to hundreds.
One of the local guides said: “If people do not come to the church, they have to pray hundreds of times. Everyone does the climb and comes to church, it is easy for us.
“The locals are used to the climb, we have done it many times.”
Although tourists can take two hours to reach each church, the locals do the walk in less than half this.