ethiopia: a cradle of christianity

Volcanic eruptions formed the Ethiopian Highlands some 25 to 40 million years ago, long before the creation of the Rift Valley. Snow falls here annually, making it one of the few places in Africa where this regularly occurs. During my time here in late November 2017, evening temperatures would hover around the freezing mark. With peaks rising above 4000 metres, altitude sickness was always a concern. Christianity in Ethiopia dates to the rule of King Ezana, who declared it the Kingdom of Axum's state religion in 330 AD. Today, 60 percent of Ethiopians are Christians. The 7th century emergence of Islam isolated Ethiopians from the rest of the Christian world. Despite this, Ethiopia was the only region in Africa to survive Islamic expansion as a Christian state. Herds of goats are tended through town in Axum. Resident monks at the Debra Damo Monastery, which sits atop a flat-topped mountain. Built in the 6th century, it is only accessible by rope up a 15 metre sheer cliff. Only males can visit, and as such even the cattle that reside there consists only of bulls. Lalibela is famous for its rock-hewn monolithic churches that date back to the late 12th and early 13th centuries. The best-known of these is the Church of St. George, pictured here at left. Measuring 25 metres square and 30 metres deep, the structure is carved in the shape of a cross from volcanic tuff, a relatively soft rock that has been used in construction since ancient times. ld Russian-made Ladas, all painted blue and white, serve taxi duty in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. These Lada 1200s date back to the 70s and 80s and were developed from 1967's 'European Car of the Year', the then-new Fiat 124. Lada modified Fiat's design to adapt to the Soviet market's harsh winters and treacherous road conditions. The resulting 1200 model was produced in great numbers, and Lada began looking for export markets. Many of these little cars made their way to Ethiopia, and onto the imperfect roads of Addis Ababa. The Mursi are an ethnic group residing in southern Ethiopia's isolated Lower Omo Valley, and their women are known for wearing plates in their lower lips. They are among the last ethnic groups in Africa to wear these plates as a norm. Every woman crafts her own lip plate, and much pride is taken in their design and decoration. The process of inserting lip plates traditionally begins with unmarried women between the ages of 15 and 18. At first, the lower lip is pierced, and a wooden peg inserted. These pegs are gradually enlarged until a plate can be used. The adornment has come to attract a great deal of tourist attention. Today however, adolescent girls can decide whether to wear lip plates. 

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