Raphael Kessler

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Ethiopia is another one of those places that many people have gross misconceptions about. Most people only think of the 1984 famine, desert and a potbellied child in rags brushing the flies from its face. The reality is very different, it is an extremely lush and diverse country. It is probably the most historically interesting place in sub-Saharan Africa. The people have a history that dates back three thousand years and a distinctive Coptic Christianity. 

In Lalibela there are several churches hewn directly from the bedrock, supposedly the work of King Lalibela with the assistance of angels. Beita Georgis (photo 1) is a cruciform church carved from just the single rock, complete with doors windows and internal supporting columns. There are passageways between some of the churches that although below ground level still have considerable drops below (photo 2). In each of these churches are unique solid gold crosses (as held by the deacon in photo 3). In recent years some of these have been stolen along with other religious artifacts, there were a couple of high profile recoveries one when a cross was recovered in Belgium after an Ethiopian exchange student recognised it. Another case was when a priest found a Tabot (a representation of the ark of the covenant) in his church in Scotland, it was subsequently returned. The religious art is particularly distinctive in Ethiopia as the characters all have very Ethiopian features, for example representations of Jesus are not the white bloke with the long hair and goatee popular in the west, but show an Ethiopian looking man (probably much closer to how he should be portrayed). In the Debre Birhan Selassie church in Gondar there are interesting representations of the main religious stories and the ceiling is covered with pictures of angels (photo 4). One of the more disturbing bits to be found in a church in Ethiopia was the collection of corpses in the marble church near Lalibela (photo 5). These poor folk were apparently unholy sinners struck down when attempting to pray hypocritically, the corpses were then put in a pile to one side to remind other would be blasphemers. These corpses have apparently been there for centuries which explains their leathery state of decay. Considering this, you might expect less skin  on them, something to do with the aridity I guess.

  • (c) Copyright - Raphael Kessler 2011 - Ethiopia - Lalibela - Beita Giorgis
  • (c) Copyright - Raphael Kessler 2011 - Ethiopia - Lalibela - Thoroughfare - Chaps chatting
  • (c) Copyright - Raphael Kessler 2011 - Ethiopia - Lalibela - Deacon with crosses
  • (c) Copyright - Raphael Kessler 2011 - Ethiopia - Lalibela - Angels on the ceiling of Debre Birhan Selassie
  • (c) Copyright - Raphael Kessler 2011 - Ethiopia - Lalibela - Sinners skeletons

The people in Ethiopia are quite different looking to those in the rest of Africa, they have a mix of Semitic and African features that generally gives quite an attractive appearance. In my opinion the women in Ethiopia are the best looking in sub-Saharan Africa. This photo shows some Ethiopian children.

(c) Copyright - Raphael Kessler 2011 - Ethiopia - Lalibela -  children

One thing most people do not think of in regard to Ethiopia is the nature and wildlife. In actuality Ethiopia is home to some unique endemic species such as the Simien fox and the Gelada baboon (photo 1). The scenery is also quite dramatic being mostly mountainous, the Simien mountains (photo 2) contain some of the higher peaks in Africa as well as being a safe home for its wildlife. In similar vein Addis Ababa, the capital, is the world's third highest at 2,500m. Much of the country is quite lush with large lakes and rivers, the most famous of which is the Blue Nile which has it's source in Tis Abbay (photo 3). The Blue Nile contributes six sevenths of the water in the Nile which is created when the White Nile from Uganda and the Blue Nile merge in Khartoum.

  • (c) Copyright - Raphael Kessler 2011 - Ethiopia - Gelada baboon
  • (c) Copyright - Raphael Kessler 2011 - Ethiopia - Lalibela - Simien mountains
  • (c) Copyright - Raphael Kessler 2011 - Ethiopia - Tiss Abay - Blue Nile Falls

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