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ETHIOPIA is a very religious country. More than 80% people are orthodox Christians. All religious traditions are very living. One of the most important orthodox holidays is TIMKAT

Timkat (Amharic "baptism") (also spelled Timket, or Timqat) is the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany. It is celebrated on January 19 (or 20 on Leap Year), corresponding to the 10th day of Terr following the Ethiopian calendar. Timket celebrates the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. This festival is best known for its ritual reenactment of baptism (similar to such reenactments performed by numerous Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land when they visit the Jordan); early European visitors confused the activities with the actual sacrament of baptism, and erroneously used this as one example of alleged religious error, since traditional Christians believe in "one baptism for the remission of sins" (Nicene Creed).

During the ceremonies of Timkat, the Tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant, which is present on every Ethiopian altar (somewhat like the Western altar stone),

is reverently wrapped in rich cloth and born in procession on the head of the priest.The Tabot, which is otherwise rarely seen by the laity, represents the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah when he came to the Jordan for baptism. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated near a stream or pool early in the morning (around 2 a.m.). Then the nearby body of water is blessed towards dawn and sprinkled on the participants, some of whom enter the water and immerse themselves, symbolically renewing their baptismal vows. But the festival does not end there.

By noon on Timqat Day a large crowd has assembled at the ritual site, those who went home for a little sleep having returned, and the holy ark is escorted back to its church in colorful procession. The clergy, bearing robes and umbrellas of many hues, perform rollicking dances and songs; the elders march solemnly with their weapons, attended by middle-ages men singing a long-drawn, low-pitched haaa hooo; and the children run about with sticks and games. Dressed up in their finest, the women chatter excitedly on their one real day of freedom in the year. The young braves leap up and down in spirited dances, tirelessly repeating rhythmic songs. When the holy ark has been safely restored to its dwelling-place, everyone goes home for feasting.

The most famous destination of Timkat Festival is Lalibela, a small village inside the mountains, a long away from civilization. In the 13 century, a number of rock-hewn monasteries were build by king Lalibela who ruled here for almost a century. There are two main groups of churches, the western and the northern group. The churches are monolithic, carved from a mass of red volcanic scoria connected by a maze of tunnels and passages with openings to hermit caves and catacombs. In the Bet Golgotha church is king Lalibela's tomb. This church is unfortunately closed to women. Inside, the churches are simple fancy. In some of them, there are colorful frescos. Almost all churches are now sheltered by basic roof, because of erosion. The only unsheltered one is the St. Georges church. It is the most impressive one. It's designed like a cross, fair to look from nearby hill. There are lots of remote churches around Lalibela. You can spend a long time to discovering them. Lalibela is quite hard to reach. It takes approximately 2 days by bus. There are almost no sealed roads in Ethiopia, except those around the capital. The only one is near Lalibela, which leads to the new airport. So the easiest way to reach Lalibela is by plane. Ethiopian airlines fly here 3 times a week.




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