Bruce Dunlop is a GP in Chichester, and an intrepid traveller and sailor. This is the first in a series of articles for The Vintage Magazine about his peregrinations:-

Lalibela and Beyond

In the West it is 2013, in Ethiopia, its Gregorian calendar says it is 2005 and time is not the only gulf that separates our cultures.

Lalibela is Ethiopia’s premier tourist destination and world heritage site. The ‘8th wonder of the world’ and a magnet to the faithful from  Ethiopia and the footloose from the world.

The town itself sits about 8000 feet up in the northern Ethiopian highlands with its 14,000 inhabitants alternately drenched by the summer rains and parched to dust by the winter drought.  Renamed from Roha in the 13th century by its farsighted  ruler Gebre Mesquel Lalibela who ruled from the end of the 12th to the beginning of the 13th century.   Gebre Mesquel was, as legend has it, chosen from infancy by divine forces.  His name means “ the bees recognize his sovereignty”, bestowed because when in his cot a swarm of bees settled on him.  He escaped unharmed but with greatly enhanced dynastic prospects.

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Sunday, January 27th, 2013