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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Monks, Myrrh & Mystery

In a land of biblical characters and stunning churches, it's easy to see the influence of angels in Ethiopia, writes Maria Visconti.

Ethiopia, more commonly associated with famine and the remains of Lucy, one of the world's earliest hominids, must be one of the best-kept traveller's secrets despite being home to seven World Heritage sites, among them the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and the Simien National Park.

Images of the Ark of the Covenant, Indiana Jones and mysterious rock buildings come to mind when Ethiopia is mentioned, but nothing prepares you for the amazing reality of a truly different society, landscape and history.

Even time is treated differently there: you become seven years younger on arrival because Ethiopia goes by the 13-month Julian calendar and, accordingly, 1997 began last September.

Also, time is calculated from sunrise. Sun one hour over the horizon equals one o'clock, two hours over the horizon two o'clock, and so on. So lunch is at 6 o'clock and dinner at 12. It makes you think. Why do we count from midnight? To avoid confusing visitors all airports and hotels have two sets of clocks.

Sydney Morning Herald


Photo Courtesy: smh.com/Maria Visconti
From another time...an Ethiopian monk, like a character from a biblical scene. Photo: Maria Visconti.

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