A different sort of carnival happens in January for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Epiphany celebrations, in this 17th century town.
Thousands of white clad Ethiopians descend on the town for the surreal and astonishing Timket – a fusion of African and Judeo Christian expression of faith as the replica Ark of the Covenant from each church is paraded through town accompanied by priests chanting clapping and drumming. Brightly coloured velvet umbrellas shade the arks and red carpets are repeatedly laid, swept, rolled up and passed overhead to the front for the ark to be paraded over as it makes its way forward.
For heathens like us it was fascinating – for Christians and Jews it has a whole different meaning. Lucky tourists get a grandstand view of the blessing of King Fasilidas’s pool prior to mass immersion by the faithful (nearly all young men!) Don’t go if you are uneasy in a crowd!
The accompanying carnival has just been created to take advantage of the punters, with music, fireworks and stalls selling traditional Ethiopian handicrafts, coffee, food and drink. Ethiopian traditional dancing (belly dancing for the shoulders) spontaneously erupts around town. But the main attraction is Timket which is a carnival in itself.
Cut out the middle man and book direct with experienceethiopia.com who tailor made a trip for us inc internal flights (we did the international bit) Amanuel (Yeamanuel@yahoo.com) will do the Gonder bit if that is all you want, including trekking in the Simien mountains.
Google map: bit.ly/f27tur
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