Monday, October 24, 2005

At the source of the Blue Nile

Detail of Debre Gibrel
Detail of Debre Gibrel
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We are now in Bahir Dar, at the start of the Northern histrical circuit... the classic tourist trip around Ethiopia.

Bahir Dar is on the southern shore of (the very muddy) Lake Tana, at the source of the Blue Nile.

There are many monasteries around, mainly on the islands of Lake Tana and we visited three by boat today. Tomorrow, maybe down the Nile to the waterfalls at Tas Abay, although more than likely they wil be turned off (should have gone yesterday - Sunday when they are turned on for day trippers).

The monasteries are over 500 years old and each contain a large round church with three ares, the outer, repersenting the outer walls and corridor, before one gets to the intermediate area and then the inner sanctum. The inner sanctum is decorated with scenes from the Bible and legend, painetd in almost comic book style, showing stories of saints, devils, angels, snakes and so on, many featuring bloodthirsty scenes of decapitation and hanging and the like. Many are from the 16th century.

Lake Tana is surrounded by forest and, at the source of the Nile, there grows the papyrus reed. The locals construct a rowing boat out of the papyrus, the tankwah, which seems to vary very little in design from boats depicted in Ancient Egypt.

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