A Travellerspoint blog

Lelelelele ... we're in Lalibela


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large_5550_12018499897734.jpgImpressive St George is carved into the rock.
The main attraction in Lalibela [Lalibela-travel-guide-948981] are the rock-hewn churches. Churches carved into the rock ... somewhat like Petra in Jordan except that there are some that are monolithic ie. rather than being carved into rock-faces, they are free-standing. The most impressive is St George (who else) ... visitors and worshippers descend through a ramp to access the church which was dug into the top of a large rock. The carpets in the church play host to fleas so precaution was required (see photos).

The king of the time created these churches so that Ethiopians wouldn't have to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem ... somewhat a replica of Jerusalem I guess. Such pilgrimages are arduous and result in many casualties .large_5550_12018499903629.jpgAnother view of St George... simple solution huh? Ethiopians believe that they are descended from Jews and their (former) kings' lineage is from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

As it was just after Christmas, we encountered small groups of worshippers chanting, singing, dancing and lelelele-ing with drums and tambourines.

Like Yemen, it was hot in the sun and cool in the shade. Umbrella weather really. So Marie decided to buy a colourful umbrella and sought the help of our guide. After happily making the purchase, she was told by some locals on the walk home that it was a church umbrella, meaning it was one for use by the clergy when taking the tablets (of the ten commandments) out of the church. It was not for normal use. I wonder why the guide didn't explain?

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Ethiopia Comments (0)

St George, my patron saint


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large_5550_12018486271146.jpgOur friend St George.
Marie and I arrived in Addis Ababa [Addis-Ababa-travel-guide-948983] after two short flights ... from Sanaa to Djibouti then to Addis. First impressions were pretty good. Despite supposedly being more third world, it felt pretty clean and modern ... but this was late at night. Our first impressions were reinforced even in the daylight next day.

After breakfast, we took a taxi to St George Cathedral ... its namesake is the protector of Ethiopia; he slayed the dragon too. Admission was by ticket which included admission to the adjacent Cathedral museum (guide inclusive and compulsory).

After a mildly informative but rushed tour of both places, the guide offered some postcards for sale at an exorbitant price.large_5550_12018486272098.jpgAirline hot towel? No, it is injera (Ethiopian bread). For breakfast in this case.We declined ... then he requested "something" for himself. Being new in town, we didn't know what quantum was appropriate (especially when we had paid for the ticket with compulsory guide) ... Marie offered him a small amount which he referred to as garbage.

In all of my years of travel, even in tourism-spoilt India or Egypt ... I've never encountered such cheek! In our disgust, we left hurriedly and returned to the hotel after taking in lunch and a couple of Addis' other sights. At the hotel, we met someone who would be our friend for the rest of our stay ... the St George in a bottle.

On our second day, Christmas (Leddet) according to the Coptic calendar just slipped past ... we couldn't find any information on how or where it would be celebrated. Inshaallah, Epiphany (Timkat) will be more colourful as it is more important in Ethiopia.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Ethiopia Comments (0)

Would you lend your pressure cooker to a complete stranger?


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large_5550_11988468648710.jpgRendang with cucumber and carrot pickle.
Merry Christmas! And Ilhamdulillah, the street are finally clean ... the street cleaners seem to have had 7 days off for Eid. But the bakery is still closed :-(

For Christmas, Julia Roberts sings a Christmas Carol in Arabic ... this Youtube video's sound is quite soft but it is there. It is an uplifting little number.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEBScuW2Njs [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEBScuW2Njs]Enjoy! Haha ;-)

Being Christmas, I decided to cookrendang for dinner and inviting some friends. Rendang is of course the dry beef curry popular in Malaysia-Indonesia. Mmmmm. Out of necessity I had to substitute (or even leave out) some ingredients.

Well, as it turns out the beef we bought from the supermarket was expensive and tough. Normally I stew the cheapest beef in New Zealand for 2 hours and it flakes and crumbles. But in Sanaa [Sanaa-travel-guide-1314202], three hours had passed and it was still tough ... maybe it is the altitude (lower pressure) or maybe it was an old cow.

Then our Yemeni guest Huda arrived and offered to go borrow a pressure cooker from the neighbours. To my surprise, she turned up with one!! Complete stranger she was to the neighbours! I'm not sure whether it helped that she didn't wear a niqab (ie. cover her mouth and nose only to expose the eyes). I suppose the neighbours would know who they had lent it to but it is such a taboo for women not to cover their lower face ... some even cover their eyes (with thin material).

The rendang turned out barely OK in terms of texture but the flavour was pretty good ... even if I say so myself ;-) Our guests joked that it may not have been a cow (baqara) but the husband of the cow (thaur) ... I thought it would have been the grandfather of the husband of the cow. Strange ... rendang I understand was originally conceived to use up your expired padi-field tractor (ie. water buffalo).

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Yemen Arab Republic Comments (0)

And on the fifth day of Eid ...


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Many shops are still closed. We can't get a good choice of fruits or vegetables, we have to go further water, drinks or yoghurt ... and our next-door bakery is closed (fresh Yemeni bread is good enough to get out of bed for). Many restaurants, eateries and internet places are closed too.

To make matters worse, our tank of cooking gas has run out ... no tea or coffee without gas :-(

The street cleaners are on holiday. Our little rubbish (and origami) bags are piling up by our front gate ... can't wait to throw them on the street to be picked up.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Yemen Arab Republic Comments (0)

Eid Mubarak ... your doctor is here


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large_5550_11980798502300.jpgLeisurely breakfast today since we don't have classes.
Today, being Eid, we got invited to our teacher's (Adnan) house. We were treated to a Yemeni lunch ... Marie even ate his friend the goat! Life is still very traditional in Yemen ... his wife did not join us for lunch because of my presence as a non-related male ... if it had been Marie only, she would be able to be unveiled and be with her family (and Marie) for lunch.

Few days ago, Adnan's brother was burnt in a kitchen accident. Healthcare is very much on an emergency basis here. He had first degree burns to his face and second degree burns to his leg. All he got was dressing ... no painkillers, no preventative antibiotics.

Marie has medical experience and has been helped source some suitable painkillers and antibiotics from the pharmacy (no prescriptions are required here).large_5550_11980798504450.jpgAlex (the cat from the downstairs flat) joined us for breakfast. Marie calls him Marcel too, to minimise confusion with me :-)She tended to the poor boy after lunch ... we may call back for Marie to change the dressings tomorrow.

On the way back, we noticed lots of guts in one street corner (must have been near a butcher) ... waist-high pile of gory balloon-like parts. It will be gone tomorrow ... inshaallah.

Here's the sequel ...

At about 10pm tonight, we had a phone call from Adnan ... his brother was in pain from needing his dressing changed. Being so late at night I thought Marie would be more comfortable going with my company. I helped in the dressing change process ... it was very emotionally-wrecking to see the boy in such great pain ... parts of his leg weren't covered in paraffin dressing. The basic linen(?) dressing was sticking despite Marie soaking it in saline first.

We finished around midnight. What an evening.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Yemen Arab Republic Comments (0)

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