On our way to the first rock church today we passed through the town of Negesh. which is considered to be the earliest Muslim settlement in Africa. A just ruler, Ashama ibn Abjar (King Negus) lived at the time of the Prophet. He gave refuge to two groups of Sahabah, companions of the Prophet who migrated there on account of the persecution of the Quraysh in the early days of Islam. Negash is also known for having one of Africa’s oldest mosques. that is the Negash Amedin Mesqud. Ayu stopped for me to take a photo of the mosque that has been restored.
The drive today to Abrehe & Atsbeha church was the roughest so far. We drove up the gravel road where they were doing road constructions. We watched men and women manually picking out rocks from the road. There were construction vehicles from China and the U.S. We had to keep our windows rolled up because it was so dusty. I did get a few photos which were easier to take on our way back down.
Ayu is such an excellent driver. He maneuvered our jeep around all of the debris and got us to the church.
Now for the important part – the rock church.
Abreha & Atsbeha is a semi-monolithic rock-hewn church which was built by twin brothers who converted to Christianity. I read that their father was Tazer and their mother was Sofia (Ahyewa). They were born on December 27, 320 and they were taught by the Axum’s arch priest Inbrem. They learned Christianity from a babysitter. Their father died when they were 12 years old and they took the throne together.
We walked up these steps to the church.
There is a graveyard around the church and this is one of the markers.
These are the twins.
I took some photos inside the church.
This is looking at the ceiling. You can see the charred black on the ceiling..
I love these wooden doors.
You can easily see the rock wall in this photo.
We walked around the back of the church to see more of the rock.
These are some views looking down from the church grounds.
After making it back down through the road construction, we went out to lunch in Cherkos. We had a good laugh when a woman from a group of Australian women who we have seen before came up to us to ask us if we were nuns. I think they had seen my chalice and wondered what order of nuns it represented. We chatted with them for a while.
Then we visited another rock hewn church called Wekro Cherkos. It is another monolithic rock-hewn church. It was dedicated to the child martyr Cyricus of Tarsus. The layout of the church is generally described as cruciformor or cross in square. Cyricus was a young boy when he and his mother were killed in Rpme in the 4th century AD.
There was a priest in this church who brought out a special cross.
Because it was a special cross, both Ayu and our guide asked to be blessed by the priest.
When you look at the following photos you can see charred black.
Both of the churches we saw today had been burned by Gudit(Ge’ez ጉዲት, Judith).
It is well known from relatively recent Ethiopic tradition that Ethiopia was once ruled by a queen called Gudit, Yodit, Isat or Gaՙwa, with both positive and negative characteristics. On the one hand she was a beautiful woman of the Ethiopian royal family, much like the Queen of Sheba, and on the other she was a despicable prostitute who, at a time of political weakness, killed the Ethiopian king, captured the throne, and as a cruel ruler destroyed Aksum, the capital, persecuted the priests, and closed the churches.
We arrived at the Planet Hotel in Mek’ele which is the capital of the Tigray region. This hotel has a sauna and swimming pool. I discovered that my bathing suit was still in the jeep because I had stored it in Leigh’s suitcase.. So I sent a message to Habtu to see if Ayu could bring it back to me. He called Ayu who drove back to the hotel with my suit.
After dinner I went to the sauna and steam room. There were two Ethiopian woman there with me. One of them brought me a cream to put on my face. She called it a mask. It was to protect my skin. I had a great time. The moisture from the steam room was so good for me in this super dry climate.
I is not 1;23 m in Ethiopia and I am so happy that I am all caught up blogging.