Religious ritual is central to the life of the town, with regular processions, extensive fasts, crowds of singing and dancing priests. This, combined with its extraordinary religious architecture and simplicity of life, gives the city of Lalibela a distinctively timeless, almost biblical atmosphere.
Information on the rock hewn churches is readily available both in a selection of brochures and maps which you are welcome to take away with you from our reception.
However key dates you may want to take notice of are as follows:
September 11 – Ethiopian New Year
From September up to November, every weekend from Saturday night to Sunday morning there is an overnight celebration held at the church of St. Mary to remember the flight of Mary to Egypt.
September 17 – The Finding of the True Cross
Each Saturday there is our regular market where you will find people who have traveled from all over the region to buy and sell their wares. Soak up the atmosphere, meet the locals, enjoy the cuisine and get ready to bargain.
And of course every Sunday is a regular celebration throught all of the churches to which you are welcome to participate in whatever capacity you feel most comfortable.
January 7 – Christmas
Lalibela is sometimes referred to as the African Petra or New Jerusalem, and Christmas is a most important celebration for us. Expect over 20 000 pilgrims to arrive here over the period, mostly by foot.
January 18 – Epiphany
In remembrance of the baptism of God by John, take in the amazing spectacle of priests and deacons, decked out in their traditional finery along with thousands of people all travelling down the 2KM from the churches to the baptismal poor.
The celebrations continue throught the night until the next morning when the priests sprinkle holy water amongst the crowd, following an Ark to its resting place.
Expect outstanding dances around the streets and churches. Unforgettable!
There are over 600 priest and deacons in Lalibela and the churches are still active after 900 years, enjoying the same traditions and languages that have developed over this time.
Every month there is always a celebration in at least one of the churches. Ask in advance and we would be happy to schedule in a visit during your stay with us.
In the church of St. Mary there sre celebrations throughout the year, most usually in the early morning.