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March 1, 2002

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We drive through Ethiopia, heading north, through towns such as Kolmbolcha, Hayk, and Weldiya. It's impossible for us to go unnoticed as we walk down village streets. Little kids shout "You! You!" at us constantly - it's their version of hello and welcome. Despite incessant stares and attention, the people aren't threatening; Ethiopia is one of the safest places in Africa. By evening we reach Lalibela and our night's stopping point. We tell our driver to take us to the cheapest place in town. A room costs 15 birr or $2. Later we realize this place is a brothel. We pitch our tent on the floor rather than sleep in the bed.
Africa's version of Petra. The rock churches of Lalibela should be among the most famous sights in the Christian world.
Ethiopian builders sculpted these churches from solid rock. Eleven rock hewn churches stand at Lalibela. To begin construction, builders cut trenches on four sides until a monolithic piece of stone remained. Then they chiseled out from inside. Some sources estimate the workforce needed to build each church required 40,000 people and twenty years.
Priests walk through the church complex's rock hewn corridors and also guard the treasures within.