Social Impact


Lalibela, Ethiopia

Go just for the experience
User icon
Story by
VJ Singh
In Lalibela, I am moved by the devotion and faith of pilgrims who have walked for weeks, and hundreds of miles across the country, to celebrate Genna - Ethiopia’s Christmas - on January 7. Here, the year is 2011, since Ethiopia still observes a pre-Julian calendar. I am immediately taken in by the idea of being 7 years younger, albeit for a fleeting moment.
Pilgrims arrive early - between midnight to 5 am - to get a prized standing spot inside the tiny but iconic Biete Gyorgis. As I watch pilgrims read from their bibles, often from inside their shroud, using a candle or torch, I realize I’ve never seen such fervor in worship.
By 6:30 am, Biete Giyorgis, the iconic rock-hewn church of Lalibela, has no more standing space, so these pilgrims huddle outside and around trees and pray from their copies of the Bible, guided by the chanting from the church, that fills the air with spirituality. It’s poetic and beautiful.