Aloe veras of Axum
After visiting the obelisks, including the one returned recebtly by Italy (still in its packing cases when we were there two years ago), one can take a walk out into the countryside and pay a visit to a monastery containing many old hand written books and paintings of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Whether you need any help to find your way around or not, you will be offered it and rather than fighting it you might as well avail yourself of a guide as we did in the case of Gatocho, a young man/boy who had lost his father and was getting money to look after his mother.
Anyway, this charming young man who rrrolled his rrr's as well as any Scotsman, took us along coutry tracks bordered by these beautiful aloe veras and cacti, next to pastures of grazing cattle, whilst every now and then a family would be seen passing along the track with a camel or a cow or a few goats on their way back to their village after a day at the market in town.
Children minding small numbers of cows or goats could be seen herding them, stciks at the ready for hitting them or stones for throwing at them if they strayed from the path. All thoroughly charming and it all resembled one great big rock garden.
Eventually, we came to our monastery, having first entered some bat infested catacombs and visited a hole in the ground containing a large stone, beutifully encrypted in three different languages. The monastery was on a hill with fine views of the rocky outcrops all around. There were a few robed priests and a larger number of novices, all very keen to show us thier trasures, which apart from the illuminated books and paintings also included many various beautifully worked metal crosses. This whilst the novices had great fun surveying the surrounding countryside through my binoculars.
It was all-in-all an enchanted afternoon, made extra special by the wonderful stories told by our host Gatocho who very kindly turned up the next day when we left the hotel for our next destination, the holy place of Lalibela.