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Rock-hewn Churches of Tigray

We left Axum in the early morning at 6am. Since there was no time for breakfast before departure todays cooking group had purchased cinnamon rolls in the “International Restaurant” which we ate in the truck.

The highlights of the day were the rock-hewn churches of Tigray of which approx. 120 are in the region. Some of the churches aren’t easy to access since they lay in the mountains and only small dirt roads lead to them. Therefore, we only visited two of the churches on our way to Mekele.

The entry fee to each of the churches is 100 Birr (5.90 USD) which is quite pricy. Andrew, one of my fellow travellers, tried to negotiate a group discount for us but had no success. Therefore, some of us decided not to visit the first church but only the second one which is supposed to be the most beautiful one in the region. Many of the churches are hewn into the rock or build within existing caves which is really interesting to see. The inside of the churches are covered with colourful paintings from the bible and you can watch the locals in their prayers.

Despite the relatively high entry fee the churches were not too well preserved so that we assume that the money goes straight away into the pockets of selected individuals instead to the churches itself. The locals were also very keen on getting as much money out of us as possible which led to some confusion since they didn’t charge us before entering the church but while being inside or when already leaving. This created a little bit of chaos since they forgot who had already paid and tried to charge people twice. There was even some random little kid walking up to Michelle asking her to pay 100 Birr to him when she would like to take a picture of the church.

During our lunch break we were observed by locals as usual. Basically whenever we stop to prepare lunch or dinner out of the truck a bunch of locals are coming to watch us. They are also hoping to receive some food, money, clothes, pens, etc. from us but we never give something away since this will not fundamentally change their situation. We only give away food from time to time but only when we have leftovers which we would through away otherwise. I also used the lunch break to get our ball and play soccer with the local kids.

We arrived in Mekele at 4pm. The hotel was quite nice and even featured a hot shower which was my first one since days. Since the water was heated up by some kind of electrical device some of my fellow travellers got an electric shock while having a shower but my shower was perfect.

In the evening we had arranged for a group dinner in a local restaurant were you could eat with the locals from a buffet of local specialties. I really enjoyed the food which only cost me 40 Birr (2.40 USD). After dinner we went to a bar which after a while turned out to be a brothel. We figured out that Ethiopian women actually don’t go to a bar to have a drink or to enjoy the music but all women hanging around in a bar are prostitutes in one way or the other.

Since some people didn’t like the red light district atmosphere we went back to the hotel which was featuring a night club as well. Unfortunately we were told that the nightclub only opens during daytime and is now closed. So we ended the day with a few drinks at the hotel bar.