November 6, 2017, we were finally heading to the sacred place!!
It was about an hour after our small propeller driven aircraft had taken off that we landed at Lalibela Airport.
At Lalibela Airport, surrounded by vast wilderness, there was only our plane.
The moment we got off the plane, everybody cried out, “This is Africa."
The arrival lobby of this small airport was like a train station in the countryside.
Here, we took another step towards the sacred place of Lalibela. In front of the airport, there was a large station square which looked like the well-developed station squares you can find in rural areas, but there were no shops or buildings around. The airport was surrounded by a wall, bushes and trees.
It looked clean and tidy. This was my first impression of Lalibela.
I didn’t know then what we had gotten ourselves into until later.
When we walked out of the building, there was a man standing with a flower bouquet and a HEAVENESE welcome sign.
He’s called Desta.
He is a descendant of King Lalibela and says he is from the lineage of David of ancient Israel.
A well-sculpted face made Him look like DaVinci’s David, and among ourselves, we nicknamed him David.
He is a local celebrity and the manager of the tourism industry. He had prepared for over a year to have us in Lalibela helping make this tour successful.
Some cars were arranged for us, and grass and flower petals were spread over the seats. This was their traditional way of welcoming someone. It felt like as if we were boarding some sort of attraction.
From the moment when we got in the car and hit the road, everyone’s excitement increased. The scene that spread before us was our epitome of Africa. We muttered to ourselves, “This is Africa!!”
There was no question about it. What spread before us was Africa. People dressed up in colorful clothes seemed to be coming out of nowhere. Some walked with parasols.
It is said that having a parasol is reminiscent of the imperial period. Cattle, falcons, donkeys, sheep, and various animals came and went.
Our tour guide told us that there was a funeral at a nearby church, which we could in the distance; that’s where people were walking to. But where did they come from?
They were coming from directions that were even beyond our destination.
見As far as you could see, there were no shops, convenience stores, or vending machines. On that road, people were walking. It was said that there are some people who walk 5 to 6 hours to go to a funeral. Our tour guide told us that people were strong here, so they walked. It’s better for their health.
Our cars steadily climbed up the sloping landscape, and after a little while, our cars stopped at a scenic spot.
It was a spot that gave us a vast paranoiac view of Lalibela.
There were some small children selling their goods. I wondered what they did for water. Under the scorning sun, they sat there all day, and every time a tourist stopped to take a photograph, they tried hard to sell the things they had.
Up farther we climbed, and the town of Lalibela finally came into view.
The houses were lined up on the hill side and looked like they were crawling along.
I understood then that people were walking from Lalibela to attend the funeral.
We passed the place that was said to be the center of Lalibela.
It had a little hustle and bustle of a central location, but it was nothing but a place which had mountain huts that can be found on the slopes of Mt. Fuji.
Everyone from our team stayed at the same hotel in Lalibela.
Sure enough, they didn’t have enough rooms as planned. Well, what do you expect with all that we’ve experienced so far?
We had lunch at the hotel’s restaurant. It was the first time we were all able to eat together.
It was tasty
It fit Japanese people’s taste buds.
After that, most people went to the World Heritage Rock-Hewn Churches site. Kumiko and I caught up with them little later after we had a meeting concerning the next day’s photo shoot. It is a sacred place that carries the weight of the nation’s history.
King Lalibela designated this place as the second Jerusalem.
He made a second Jerusalem to deter people from going to Jerusalem for a sacred pilgrimage.
This group of churches is still used as a site for peoples’ daily prayer.
Dinner was a buffet.
The owner was so pleased to have us at the hotel that he arranged for some Ethiopian music and dancers to welcome us after dinner.
Surrounding a bonfire were Japanese and Western hotel guests with a local dance group dancing to the traditional music of the Amharan Tribe.
We enjoyed both lunch and dinner. The taste suited Japanese peoples’ taste buds, and we enjoyed this night in African.
However, this ended up causing a terrible situation.