Lake Tana is the country’s largest body of water and the source of the Blue Nile River, this city of about half a million features broad, palm-lined avenues and bona fide beach resorts and waterside restaurants serving fresh fish.
By Tim Johnson (Toronto Star) |
BAHIR DAR, Ethiopia—We have traveled just a few kilometers outside of town, but it feels like we’ve driven back in time — all the way back to the Old Testament. At first I think we’re looking at some sort of circus or carnival, with people hanging out by a sort of big-top tent under colorfully embroidered umbrellas, but then Tesfaw Girmay, my guide, mentions the Ark of the Covenant.
Once a year, he says, they move it, a hallowed replica of the actual artifact, out from the church across the road and set it inside a white tent emblazoned with a red cross, in this field, where people come to be baptized and pray. Walking closer, I see that a few have white ash on their foreheads.
“It’s a cross,” Tesfaw says. “People believe it will protect them from evil.”
I’m near Bahir Dar, Ethiopia’s coolest beach town. Set on Lake Tana, the landlocked country’s largest body of water and the source of the Blue Nile River, this city of about half a million features broad, palm-lined avenues and bona fide beach resorts and waterside restaurants serving fresh fish. It’s all part of a weeklong, individual tour organized and tailor-made by local tour operator FKLM Ethiopia, a trip that takes me to some of the country’s most compelling sites.
And while good times are found on the lake, like much in this deeply religious country, Lake Tana is also considered sacred, once a place of refuge from Islamic raids and, according to legend, a way station for Mary, Joseph and Jesus as they made their way back to Israel after having fled Herod’s murderous intentions.
Ethiopia was one of the earliest countries to adopt Christianity — a nation actually mentioned in the Bible, people here started following this upstart religion in the first century and it became the state’s official creed in the fourth.
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