Ethiopia (April-May 2015)

2. Myriam Hibeti to Abba Yohanni and Gabriel Wukien

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To see the map below with a better resolution in another tab, click here.

To see all the waypoints in Google Earth, click here (.kmz file).

This page covers the section of the red path between waypoints 9 and 14.



After leaving our 3rd camp we hiked across the southern part of the plain lying between Werkamba (waypoint 11) and Hawzen (waypoint 86).




Two girls along the way.


We saw many camels. They are mostly used for carrying loads (food, rocks...) between local villages and farms.






Street in the small town of Werkamba. We set our 4th camp in the courtyard of the police station (waypoint 11).


The church of Gebriel Wukien (waypoint 12) is only a 1.5-hour hike away from Werkamba. As the church of Abba Yohanni (waypoint 13), which I wanted to visit, was slightly out of the itinerary, we decided to do a round-trip to it and have our 5th camp (waypoint 14) in a field very close to Gebriel Wukien. Overall it was a long day.


Cliff above Gebriel Wukien. The church (not visible) is located slightly to the left.


Small religious ceremony outside Gebriel Wukien.



Unlike many other churches I have seen in Tigray, Gebriel Wukien is an underground monolith similar (though smaller) to some churches in Lalibela. It is accessed through an external door (left photo below), followed by an excavated trench in the rock (right photo).


The core of the church is entirely surrounded by an ambulatory with a few pillars. (In the right photo, a strange sign carved in the back of the ambulatory.)


Gebru seating on a traditional ″church chair″ in the ambulatory.


The beautifully painted door leading to the core of the church.


Inside the core of Gebriel Wukien.




To reach Abba Yohanni from Gebriel Wukien we crossed an amba (flat-top mountain), called Debra-Asa. Interestingly, this amba has the shape of a cross, as can be seen in the aerial picture below (obtained from Google Earth). Both Gebriel Wukien and Abba Yohanni are located on the side of the amba. The red dotted line is the approximate path that we took to reach Abba Yohanni (waypoint 13).


The path to the top of the amba contours the vertical sandstone cliff (visible in the middle of the following photo) on its left side, then switches to the right above the cliff.


View from the top of the amba toward Gebriel Wukien and Werkamba.


On the other side of the amba.


Beginning of the descent toward Abba Yohanni.


The church of Abba Yohanni is dug out from a 300m-high sandstone cliff on the side of the Debra-Asa amba. The white front wall was built after the original facade collapsed. The church is forbidden to women.


Gebru and a monk chatting below the church as we were waiting for the priest.


The priest (left) and two monks.


The church is accessed via a series of twisted stairs followed by a tunnel that exits on a ledge leading to the church′s door.


As is often the case during the visit of a Tigraian church, we were accompanied by a number of local people, including children who were hoping to get a few birrs (Ethiopian currency) from me and the priest.


We passed by small caves that used to house monks.


Then we reached the tunnel hollowed out of the cliff, which leads to the narrow ledge where the door of the church opens.


View from the ledge.


The inside of the church is as spectacular as its external setting in the cliff. Its ceiling consists of a dozen 9m-high cupolas supported by cruciform pillars.


Wall paintings are quite different in style from those found in other churches. They include portraits of the 12 apostles, Abba Abaydo, Angel Raphael, Abba Yohanni, and even the artist himself, Giyorgis, who painted his own portrait besides the 12 apostles.





Sections of the trip (click on the links below to access the corresponding webpages):

-             1. Mekele to Maryam Hibeti

-             2. Maryam Hibeti to Abba Yohanni and Gabriel Wukien

-             3. Gabriel Wukien to Axum via Damo Gellila

-             4. Axum to Maryam Wukro

-             5. Maryam Wukro to Hawzen

-             6. Abuna Gebre Mikael and Debre Tsion Abuna Abraham

-             7. Hawzen to Medhane Alem Adi Kasho via Abreha we Atsbeha


Return to main Ethiopia April-May 2015 webpage