Ethiopia has many mountains and cliffs like Debre Damo and many others like Ras Dashen mountain (4,550m/ 14,928 ft) on Simien Mountains.

By Fasica Berhane (The Ethiopian Herald) |

Lately, I came across a YouTube video that shows the difficulties of climbing Debre Damo, one of the most ancient monasteries and top attractions of Ethiopia. The Monastery dates back over 1,400 years. The video features a tourist having a hard time to climb the cliff while tied to a rope. He was hanging on the middle trying so hard to get himself up with a help of a priest from above holding the rope and on ground some native kids trying to give him advice. It was a bit funny to watch his efforts to climb while losing balance again and again but eventually he manged to reach to the other end of the rope and stepped inside the little window, which is a gate to the monastery.

Ethiopia has many mountains and cliffs like Debre Damo and many others like Ras Dashen mountain (4,550m/ 14,928 ft) on Simien Mountains, which also known as the roof of Africa and registered under UNESCO with amazing canyons, cliffs of highest mountains. Most tourists love to trek and visit dangerous and exciting places. Ethiopia, especially for trekking, is endowed with exciting places which makes her preferable for tourists.

Debre Damo, one of the earliest monasteries in Ethiopia and is believed to have collections of manuscripts, is about 1,000 by 400 meters in dimension.

According to historians, Debre Damo was founded in the 6th century by Abba Betselote Michael, the son of Constantinople King Issac and Queen Edna. Later he acquired the name Abba Aregawi, which means ‘the elder one‘ by his childhood friends, for his sagacity among most of his peers.

Ancient manuscripts tell the history of Abune Aregawi and the establishment of the place. Before he found Debre Damo, Abune Aregawi wandered around northern Ethiopia looking for a permanent place to pray and do his solitary soul searching. Debre Damo is found on the way from Adigrat to Axum northern part of Ethiopia, Tigray Region.

According to manuscripts and myths, the angel of God got revealed to him one day as a pillar of light at the Damo Mountain. And his attention got captured by that mountain but he wondered how to climb up there because the mountain was isolated and very high from the ground.

After he spent some time observing the place to figure out how to get atop, once again, God sent a helper, Saint Michael, to order a very giant serpent which was 60 meter to take Abune Aregawi to the top of the cliff. There, Abune Aregawi heard angels singing to God. Together with them, he praised God by chanting hallelujah. Following this event, the place derived its name from Debre Hallelujah—a place of uttering hallelujah.

Since then, building churches and keeping above 40 ancient manuscripts many monks settle in the mountain with a robe made of ox skin.

This sacred place has become officially open for tourists since in 2005 (1997 E.C.) by the then Ethiopia’s President, Mr. Girma Wolde Giorgis. Now, many tourists visit the ancient Monastery for spiritual ends and excitement.

There are two types of ropes to climb to the Debre Damo Monastery. The first one is for hauling different kinds of materials, equipment and corpses. It is used just like water is fetched from a water well via a pulley system. The second rope is one prepared from skin of five oxen. It is very strong as it is meant for transporting guest and monks up and down.

To climb up with the assistance of the rope one needs a little experience. For those who have trekking experience it is a bit easy to climb tied and lifted up and using a barefoot.

According to ancient manuscripts, the construction of the church in the Monastery had taken two years. The legendary Saint Yared had attended the inauguration event as a guest of honor and presented his hymn praise to God and attendees.

In a manuscript called Gedle Abune Aregawi, the coining of the name Debre Damo is attributed to Emperor Gabra Masqal II’s visit to the place during the inauguration ceremony and the order to disband the stairways built by the monk before the introduction of the rope. After Abune Aregawi learned that a giant serpent took him up the cliff. In Geez ‘Dahmemo‘ means to disband.

The Monastery have two churches— Saint Mary Church and Abune Aregawi Church. They are churches built as a tribute to the monk. It was built by his disciples and successor Abune Matias after his disappearance on the age 99 in 14 of October. The Orthodox Christianity faithfuls believe that Abune Aregawi’s was taken by God just like Elijah and Enoch in the bible.

There are above 600 monks and deacons lives with seclusion and peace on this monastery with more than 200 monk houses atop the mountain. Also, there are 150 springs. The spring, which gushes out of Saint Mary’s Church, is see as a holy water. It is believed by many to have a healing power.

On Sundays, priests give sermons and monthly on 14th and 21st Saint Mary masses make a pilgrimage to the sacred Monastery to attend rituals.

As a rite, the Monastery doesn’t allow female faithfuls and visitors or tourists to climb to the Monastery or enter the church. Female congregants attend the ceremony down on the ground.

As many tourists claim on Tourist Sites and Tourist Profiles the 2216 meters above-sea -level high monastery seems close to the sky. This sacred place, full of stones and aged trees, is exciting to visit which clearly shows how ancient this Monastery is. Its door pillars and paints showcase the ancient civilization and history.

Source: The Ethiopian Herald
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3 Responses

  1. Almaz

    What an f** travel writer. You are in Ethiopia? And you write something you saw on you tube. Is this lazy or dumb

    • About Ethiopia

      @Almaz, she used the YouTube video as an introductory or entrance! After that, what she wrote has nothing to do with the YouTube video. I suppose you did’t read the article thoroughly. Cheers.


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