In early February (2015), I spent a few days in Lalibela, Ethiopia. I like small-town Lalibela; this was my second visit. I enjoy staying at Tukul Village Hotel and visiting the areas ancient rock churches, some almost a millennium old (several hundred years older than the Europe’s Gothic cathedrals). The ancient churches near downtown Lalibela, which are hewn out of rock outcrops to fantastic effect, are protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
But there are other interesting attractions in Lalibela.
- Saturday’s Market looks like something out of the Middle Ages. It is not filled with tourist kitsch, but things required to sustain life in northern Ethiopia: cattle, goats and sheep, grains, spices, clothing, etc. It is one large mass of humanity wheeling-and-dealing to stay alive. While the average traveler may feel a little out of place (unless he or she is buying a goat), it presents a wonderful environment to get some interesting photographs. And to travel back in time.
- Torpedo/Askalech Bar is located down a dusty lane in the basement of an old building. It specializes in honey wine and, at night, it is definitely a “happening” place. When we got there, the bar was packed, mostly with locals. The decor is fairly crude, but quite effective in creating a medieval-type atmosphere. Eventually there was sort of a stage show (without the stage). One musician, two singers, and two dancers. The latter pair danced enthusiastically with very jerky shoulder actions, occasionally involving the customers as partners. A great place to “eat, drink, and be merry.”
- Ben Abeba Restaurant is spectacularly located on a ridge on the outskirts of Lalibela. The building looks like something a drug-addled Antoni Gaudi might have designed for NASA. Instead of looking medieval, this structure looks ultra-modern. The night I ate there, the restaurant was packed, mainly with tourists and travelers. Toward the top of the structure, there are 4 lily-pad-type platforms. We were escorted to one of the pads. This is a great location to enjoy the setting sun, long vistas, a drink, and dinner.