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Temple of the Moon


Ethiopia's historic route begins with a glance at the tantalizing remains of Yeha - the country's earliest high civilization. In a remote part of Tigray region, Yeha lays several hours drive from the more accessible city of Axum; the journey takes you on rough tracks through dramatic highland scenery and eventually ends in a beautiful and serene agricultural hamlet. It is there, close to a much more recent Christian church, that you may see the towering ruins of Yeha's Temple of the Moon built more than 2,500 years ago, in Sabaean times.

The temple is an imposing rectangular edifice. Though it has long since lost its roof and upper storey the ruins stand some twelve meters in height. As evening falls, the temple's finely dressed and polished limestone reflects the glow of the setting sun with a warmth and brilliance that cannot be accidental. The huge, precisely fitted blocks from which the inward- inclining walls are formed seem to bear out ancient opinion that Sabaean buildings could be filled with water without a single drop being lost.

Apart from the temple, however which speaks eloquently of the works of a high civilization, little or nothing is known about the people who built this great edifice. Indeed, their origins are wrapped in mystery of which, perhaps, the greatest is this: if a culture had evolved to the level of sophistication required to build monuments of such quality in the highlands of Tigray by the sixth century BC, then what were its antecedents? What came before it? And how far back does Ethiopian civilization really go? So far the archaeologists have uncovered no convincing answers to these questions.

Genna (Ethiopian Christmas)

The Ethiopian Christmas also called Lidet, is one of the primary religious and secular festivals. Falling on the 7 the night with people moving from one church to another. Traditionally young men play a game that is similar to hockey, called Genna and Christmas has also come to be known by this name.

The celebration is unique to Lalibela and attracts many visitors from all around the world. 7th of January, it is celebrated seriously by a church service that goes on throughout.

Coffee Ceremony

It is one of the most enjoyable events you can attend at most Ethiopian restaurants. The coffee is taken through its full life cycle of preparation in front of you in a ceremonial manner. Coffee is called "Bunna" by Ethiopians.

The ceremony starts by washing the coffee beans and roasting it in a coffee roasting pan on a small open fire/coal furnace. The pan is similar to an old fashioned popcorn roasting pan and has a very long handle to keep the hand away from the heat. At this time most of your senses are being involved in the ceremony. The woman shake the roasting pan back and forth that the beans won’t burn (This sounds like shaking coins in a tin can), the coffee beans start to pop (sounds like popcorn) and the most memorable part is when the lady preparing the coffee takes the roasted coffee among the audience that the freshly smell of it fills the air.

The roasted coffee is then put in a small household mortar called Mukecha for grinding the beans.

The crushed coffee powder is then put in a traditional clay pot locally called Jebena. Then, it will be made to boil on the small open fire/coal furnace. Again the boiling coffee aroma fills the room. Once the coffee is boiled, it is served in small cups called Cini which are very small Chinese porcelain cups.


Ashendiye/ Ashenda is the spectacular festival and uniquely celebrated in Lasta Lalibela and further North in Sekota and Tigray region. It takes place usually in August marking the ending of a fasting season called ‘Filseta’. (The time of the annunciation of the Saint Virgin Marry). It is an event most yearned by girls. Young girls dressed in beautiful traditional outfits and in small groups, go from house to house singing and dancing. The name of the festival “Ashenda” is taken from the name of a tall grass that the girls make it into a skirt and wear it around their waist as a decoration.

Hidar Tsion

The Virgin Mary is one of the most venerated of all religious figures in Ethiopia. About 33 days are annually dedicated to different celebrations in the commemoration of Mary. "Hidar Tsion" is associated with the presence of the Ark of the Covenant in Axum and the belief that the Ark itself is a symbolism to her womb. This festival is attended by tens of thousands of people from all over Ethiopia, making it one of the most joyous annual pilgrimages in Aksum, the "sacred city of the Ethiopians.


One of Ethiopian’s most treasured festivals, Timket is the Ethiopian Orthodox church celebration of Epiphany, the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan. This two­ day event (Jan 18­19) begins early morning, where persists donning ceremonial robes, church deacons playing drums,and multitudes of worshippers all hold vigil until dawn. Then the Tabot,a sanctified replica of the Ark of the Covenant, reverently wrapped in rich cloth is borne in procession on the head of the priest. The procession end near a water point and tents are pitched to house the Tabot overnight. The following morning, the Patriarch blesses the pooling ‘Jan Meda’ (place where the festival held), and sprinkle believers en masse with a hose. Many jumps into the pool and immerse. In the afternoon, the crowds escort the Tabot back to the churches. It is a colorful procession and a sight to behold

This is most colorfully celebrated festival in Ethiopia. It falls on the 19th for visitors to witness and enjoy it. The Holy Tabot, the replica of the Arc of the Covenant, is taken out from each Orthodox church around the country the day before the celebration and taken to central areas where the ceremony will take place.


Ethiopians have been celebrating Meskel for over 1600 years. The word actually means “Cross” and the feast commemorates the discovery of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. The original event took place on 19th March 326 A.D. But the feast is now celebrated on 27th September. Many of the rites observed throughout the festival are said to be directly connected to the legend of Empress Helena. On the eve of Meskel, tall branches of trees are tied together and decorated with yellow daisies called Meskel Flowers. During the night the branches are gathered together in front of the compound gates and burned. This symbolizes the action of the Empress who, when no one would show her the Holy sepulcher, lit incense and prayed for help. Where the smoke drifted, she dug and found three roses. To one of the three, on the true cross of Jesus, many miracles were attributed.

During the time of the year flowers bloom on mountains and plain lands and the meadows are yellow with the brilliant Meskal daisy. Dancing, feasting, merrymaking, bonfires and even gun salutes mark the occasion. The festival begins by planting a green tree on Meskel even in town squares and village market places. Everyone brings a pole topped with Meskel daisies to form the towering pyramid that will be a beacon of flame. Torches of tree branches tied up together called “Chibo” are used to light the bundle called “Demera”

Hosanna Palm Sunday

The Sunday before Easter is the Feast of Hosanna or known as Palm Sunday. It commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ with his disciples into Jerusalem. People welcomed Jesus by spreading palm branches. Axum has a colorful procession for Hosanna which is worth a visit.


The Irecha festivity is celebrated on Sunday that comes following Meskel. Irecha is according to the Oromo tradition the thanks giving day to the “Waqa” or God. At national level, it is celebrated in Bishoftu town in Oromya regional state in Lake Hora Arsedi. On the festival community leaders Aba Gadas present gratitude to the Waqa for the blessed transition from the rainy season which is normally considered as dark to the bright and colorful season Autumn (Birra). On the day different cultural dressings give very majestic look to the environment and hence worth visiting.


Ethiopian Easter is conducted in remembrance of the fasting, suffering, and crucifixion of Jesus. A fascinating all night prayer vigil is available at all Orthodox Churches. Addis Ababa’s Holy Trinity, Axum, and Lalibela church are particularly special.

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