Island monasteries

Trip Start Sep 28, 2005
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Trip End Jun 24, 2006


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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Tuesday, Apr 4

Miles travelled: 65141

A short 20-minute flight brought us to Bahir Dar, on the southern shore of Lake Tana. This is Ethiopia's largest lake and is the source of the Blue Nile River, which provides over 75% of the water in the Nile River as it flows through Egypt. Really then, Lake Tana was literally the life-source for one of the world's greatest civilizations. We saw the Blue Nile Falls, the largest falls in Ethiopia -- unfortunately about 75% of the flow is now diverted to a hydroelectric plant, so what we saw doesn't come close to Victoria or Igauzu Falls that we've seen in our travels.

On Lake Tana there are a number of ancient monasteries dating from the 14th century, most still active. Legend has it that the Ark was kept for safekeeping on a couple of these islands while Ethiopia was under attack at various points in its history. We visited a couple of monasteries and their churches, viewing some beautiful Byzantine-style paintings from the 16th century, along with ancient artifacts such as scriptures and ceremonial crosses over 1000 years old.

Though the Felasha Jews are mostly gone now, there are still many Jewish overtones in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, for example the legend of the Ark of the Covenant. Each orthodox church has a concentric structure similar to the Jewish Temple, with the inmost chamber called the "Holy of Holies" and only the high priest is allowed to enter. Each church also has a replica of the "tabot" (tablet of the Ten Commandments) which is put in the Holy of Holies.
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