On the 19th of january the orthodox Ethiopians celebrate Epiphany! It 's one of the highlights in their festive season. Literally every village celebrates this day and it can take up to a week of festivities.
We were so lucky to celebrate this in the Mequet mountains south-west of Lalibela in a village...!
After you have finished your meal you may, out of habit, place your napkin on your plate. Do not do it here! If there is any food left, the restaurant will give this to poor people after they close. If you put the napkin on it – they won’t. It is a really hard habit to break, but please remember to leave your napkin on the table when you finish.
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Before you can enter an Orthodox Christian Church anywhere in Ethiopia you have to remove your shoes. And any hats as well. I would suggest that you wear socks, especially in older churches and the rock hewn churches of Lalibela. Your feet are going to get dirty, even if they do have carpets down! Unfortunately in Lalibela you are expected to pay the ‘Shoe Minder’ to watch your shoes so they won’t be stolen. They won’t anyway and thankfully this ridiculous way of fleecing the tourists is not repeated anywhere else in Ethiopia. Just say you don’t have any money when asked. You already have your shoes back on when they try it!
Why do you have to remove your shoes? According to Exodus 3:5 in the Bible, God instructed Moses to remove his shoes while he stood on Mt. Sinai because it was Holy Ground.
“And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest [is] holy ground.”
Tej is an alcoholic drink made out of honey. It is sweet and you can have it in special "Tej Houses", kind of bars where they serve just this. There are 3 degrees: soft, medium and high, depending on the alcohol, though the HIGH was just similar to a beer. There are no glasses, you drink it from the bottle.
You could see some locals drinking bottle after bottle here and spending the evenings until they got drunk. But you need a lot of bottles to get drunk!
Visiting the churches in Ethiopia you will see the priests and monks wearing long sticks with often a nice silver handle at top.
It's very common in Ethiopian churches, that the religious ceremonies like chanting, praying and reading the holy books, can last for hours. Then the men use their sticks to lean on, having the handle in their arm-pits.
After a meal in a restaurant or invited at a family's house having a local coffee-ceremony, you will find out, you have to take your time. After the burning and grounding of the beans and the brewing of the coffee, the coffee wil be finally ready.
The coffee in Ethiopia is called buna. The buna is served from the black ceramic jar into tiny cups with lots of sugar. The local custom is, that you have to drink three cups at least. The last cup is the blessing cup, the so-called berekha.
After the coffee beans are burned and you have still the inhaled flavour in your nose, the beans will be ground with a mortar. When all these preparations are done, the coffee is brewed up with water. Beautiful black ceramic coffee jars are used in Ethiopia.
Our host in the Unique Restaurant was wearing her natala, a white light cotton toga with a nicily decorated border, the so-called tibeb. Everywhere in Ethiopia you see people wearing these white togas, especailly when they visit the church, but also in the streets and at home.
After a meal in a restaurant or invited at a family's house you will for sure experience a coffee-ceremony during your visit in Ethiopia.
Your host sits on a stool with her charcoal stove. To create a good ambiance there is mostly also incense burning and freshly cut grass scattered on the ground.
First of all the coffebeans are roasted at a iron plate in your presence. When it starts to smoke and smell the host will draw it towards you, so you can inhale its flavour.
So take your time and relax, this is just the beginning of the ceremony.
Like in all the churches and holy places in Ethiopia its custom to take off the shoes. Of course this created a new job. Somebody will show up and take care about your shoes for a small tip. Sometimes its not worth putting them on again because its only a few meters to the next church. The shoe keeper will carry them to the next place and make sure that they will be there when you leave the place.
Foreigners, non-christions, etc are very welcome at the celebrations...
There was even a little boy who walked up to us to say "Thank you for celebrating with us". It was so beautiful!
Teff is the staple grain of Ethiopia. Injera is made of fermented teff flour. All around Lalibela, there were fields of teff. It looked like a good crop.