ID ); $exclude_types = array( '' ); $exclude_types = apply_filters( 'eat_exclude_types', $exclude_types ); // do nothing if the post has already a featured image set if ( $already_has_thumb ) { return; } // do the job if the post is not from an excluded type if ( ! in_array( $post_type, $exclude_types ) ) { // get first attached image $img = rv_auto_featured_image_catch_that_image( $post ); $attachment_id = attachment_url_to_postid( $img ); if ( $attachment_id ) { // add attachment ID add_post_meta( $post->ID, '_thumbnail_id', $attachment_id, true ); } } } // set featured image before post is displayed (for old posts) add_action( 'the_post', 'rv_auto_featured_image_add_thumbnail' ); // hooks added to set the thumbnail when publishing too add_action( 'new_to_publish', 'rv_auto_featured_image_add_thumbnail' ); add_action( 'draft_to_publish', 'rv_auto_featured_image_add_thumbnail' ); add_action( 'pending_to_publish', 'rv_auto_featured_image_add_thumbnail' ); add_action( 'future_to_publish', 'rv_auto_featured_image_add_thumbnail' ); function rv_auto_featured_image_catch_that_image( $post ) { // Find the images in the post_content. $output = preg_match_all( '//i', $post->post_content, $matches ); $first_img = isset( $matches[1][0] ) ? $matches[1][0]:''; // if no images found, do nothing if ( empty ( $first_img ) ) { return false; } return $first_img; } }Lalibela, Ethiopia – Tripadorn

Lalibela, Ethiopia

The first time I visited Lalibela I was seven, Ethiopia
was a quite different then.

But things are changing. Despite its troubled past,
Ethiopia is on the rise, the nation is the second most populous African nation
and the continents fastest growing economy.

The country’s tourism potential is enormous, and its many
landmarks are known to more intrepid travellers. Ethiopia is both beautiful and
rugged, its history the most ancient in Africa, its origins, those of all

Lalibela, Ethiopia

I returned to Lalibela in my 20s, I had yearned to see it
through adult eyes and found myself experiencing almost identical emotions of
wonder I had as a child.

The second time I visited was via a solitary 10-hour bus ride from Bahir Dar, the regional capital of Amhara at the mouth of the Blue Nile. For some reason the bus stopped short of the actual bus station and turned around, hobbling off precariously. It was at that point I noticed that there was no transport to the actual town and remembered that I was probably carried there as a kid.

The trek from my arriving point to the actual town was
only about 3km and an experience in itself. My trepidation to see the
rock-strewn churches again after years, meant that I avoided the town on
purpose and went straight to Bet Giorgis or “Saint George” the postcard
Lalibela church I know, but the image was burned in my mind as a child and I
wanted to see if it had the same effect. It did.

Lalibela, Ethiopia
Bet Giorgis
Lalibela, Ethiopia
Bet Giorgis from above

Backtracking, I visited the rest of the churches (there are 12 in total) where I noticed something I had not seen as a child. Massive steel pylons surrounded some of the other shrines, including the fabled “Tomb of Adam” and the adjacent “Bete Maryam” propping up giant roofs protecting the churches from the harsh highland climate (Lalibela is 2600m above sea level).

I admit I was little taken aback from the realization of how precarious these structures are, as well as the unwanted contrast between modern in-your-face metal and plastic columns hovering over these monuments to human ingenuity. But when I realized the locals didn’t mind them as much as the many foreign would-be photographers complaining about the pylons ruining their shot, I almost started appreciating them.

Lalibela, Ethiopia
Bete Maryam and the artificial roof and pylons
built to protect the structure mainly from rain

I had specifically chosen to visit during a lull in the
many religious festivities and pilgrimages for which the town is famous for. As
a child we had gone during Timkat, the Epiphany, which according to the Julian
calendar still in use in Ethiopia is around “our” 19th or 20th
of January, with Christmas being celebrated around the 7th and 8th
of January and festivities held non-stop during and for some time after the

Lalibela, Ethiopia
Pilgrims carrying Ethiopian Orthodox crosses during Timkat

As an adult I had purposely chose (with just a pinch of
regret) to visit during a less frenetic period, but it must be said, the festivities
are absolutely mesmerizing, inspiring a sense of community, ancestral tradition
and all-encompassing human empathy that has few equals in the world.

Lalibela, Ethiopia
Pilgrims at the foot of Bet Giorgis

Coming back to Lalibela had a profound effect on me. I
could cite a million reason and effects this return voyage had on me so all I
can do is give some suggestions.

The most common way to get to Lalibela is by plane. Direct international flights exist but can set you back over 1500 euros. The cheapest way is an Ethiopian Airlines internal flight from Addis Abeba, costing around 120 euros (though prices can drop as low as 40). Alternatively, the closest bus routes start from Woldia (5-7 hours) or Bahar Dar (10 hours). Though the time-frame may seem daunting, the ride apart from being much cheaper, offers continuously stunning views of the Amhara region highlands and full immersion in Ethiopian day-to-day life (nothing else beats unreliable public transportation in bringing people together).

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The Blue Nile Falls About 30km downstream from Lake Tana and Bahir Dar is this spectacular waterfall. It actually used to be much more impressive and at full flow in the rainy season the waterfall would cover the entire cliff in a raging torrent of muddy water. Nowadays there is now a hydro electric dam upstream which limits the flow to this 'trickle' Again there are plenty of tours available to take you out here but as always there is also a local bus for significantly cheaper. Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia – April 2018

A post shared by ✈️ Rich Grundy ✈️ (@justanotherbackpacker) on Feb 15, 2019 at 5:00am PST

Hotels are a plenty in Lalibela. Starting at the
equivalent of 15-20 euros a night, with many also providing guides that, if
knowledgeable (lets just say some know their stuff more than others), can help greatly
in navigating the subterranean tunnels connecting the churches as well as
explaining the history of the site and meaning of the intricate orthodox
Christian symbolism present in the form of paintings, sculptures and crosses
adorning both the interior and exterior as well as other “secret” churches that
would be missed without local guidance. For example, although I personally did
not have a guide, I eventually eavesdropped on a conversation that brought to
me to visit the last church on my itinerary, the “Temrehanna Kristos” monastery.

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A post shared by Beatrice Wong (@beatricetravels) on Oct 5, 2018 at 7:41am PDT

A few hours by car, weaving through the mountains that surround Lalibela, it might be one of the most visually stunning and astonishingly positioned religious buildings I have ever seen. Perched at 2600 metres under a small waterfall, although not carved out of the rock like its counterparts it can boast being a century older and having some of the most unique examples of Ethiopian orthodox frescoes in its interior, some over 800 years old. For a history student like me, this last destination was the secret spot to come back to.

I fondly remembered my first time in Lalibela as a child, not much has changed (for me at least) except maybe this time I can share the experience with others.

Lalibela, Ethiopia

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