Baptism of Christ
Travelling to Ehtiopia, Led by Canon Christopher Tuckwell, 17th - 28th January 2017
Ethiopia is a country with an ancient and fascinating history, with the Axumite Empire in the north well-developed at the time of Christ. Christianity in Ethiopia was introduced in the 4th century AD by St Frumentius, a Syrian who had been taken there as a slave, but who later managed to convert the Emperor Ezana to Christianity. The majority of Ethiopians belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church,although there is a smaller but vibrant Catholic community. One element thatmakes Ethiopian Christianity unique is its clear link with Judaism. The churches have the shape of the Ancient Temple of Jerusalem, with its tripartite division, and its most sacred part, the Holy of Holies. Many male Ethiopian Christian babies are, even now, circumcised on the eighth day.
Hundreds of the churches are hewn out of rock. Some of them are outstanding, particularly the churches of Lalibela, known as Africa's Jerusalem. They are under the special protection of UNESCO. In each of the churches, the most sacred object is not the Blessed Sacrament but rather the TABOT, i.e. a replica of one of the tablets that were found in the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple at Jerusalem. We will be in Ethiopia during the Solemnity of TIMKET (the Baptism of the Lord), and will be in Lalibela to celebrate the Feast, when the TABOT is taken out of the church in a joyful procession with everyone from the Bishop downwards dressed in their best attire in their thousands, young and old, dancing and singing joyfully. Taking part makes one feel like David dancing in front of the Ark!
To experience the richness of Ethiopian Christianity is a great privilege, and I think that you will find your pilgrimage to Ethiopia an unforgettable experience.
DAY ONE: London - Addis Ababa
Check in at London Heathrow for our scheduled flight by Ethiopian Airlines, departing at 21:00.
DAY TWO: Addis Ababa
Our flight arrives at Addis Ababa at 07:30. Transfer to our hotel for breakfast,followed by a morning city tour, the highlight of which will be the National Museum, which contain amongst other antiquities, Lucy's remains (she was an Australopithecus Afarensis who lived 3,500,000 years ago.) We also visit St George's Orthodox Cathedral, and the Ethnological Museum to see their collection of Coptic crosses and antique musical instruments. Lunch will be in an international restaurant, before we return to our hotel for an afternoon at leisure. Mass will be celebrated during the day. Dinner will be in our hotel.
DAY THREE: Addis Ababa - Lalibela
After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport for a domestic flight, ET 122 to Lalibela. After checking in at our hotel for a two-night stay, we visit the first group of monolithic churches, for which Lalibela,the "African Jerusalem" is famous. Two of the biggest tourist attractions of Ethiopia are:the underground and cross- shaped St George Beta Mariam church with beautifully-painted walls and ceilings and the majestic Beta Medane Alem. Mass will be celebrated during the course of the morning. After lunch, we will see the first half of the TIMKET celebrations. Dinner will be in our hotel.
DAY FOUR: Lalibela
As the dawn rises, we see the second half of the TIMKET celebrations. Return to our hotel for breakfast, before going out again to witness the end of the celebrations. After lunch in our hotel we visit the second group of churches. The carving work is unbelievable! The reddish monolithic rocks were dug on the inside and carved on the outside in order to shape the roof, the facade and the walls that were chiselled to make doors and windows. The churches are connected by underground passages. Mass will be celebrated during the course of the day. Dinner will be in our hotel.
DAY FIVE: Lalibela - Bahir Dar
After breakfast, we depart by Toyota Cruiser bus to Bahir Dar, a pleasant city situatedon Lake Tana. The total driving distance today is about 200 miles, which will include a lunch stop in a local restaurant, after which we make a visit to the Awra Amba community. In the 1970s a small collective of farmers got together and made some fundamental changes to the way they lived, and formed a progressive new village named Awra Amba. It now has some 400 members of the collective, and is praised as a model to alleviate poverty and promote gender equality in a country where women are generally subservient to men. The women, who are not farmers, have diversified into the weaving business, and some of their cloth products are available to purchase. We arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon to check in for dinner and a two-night stay.
DAY SIX: Bahir Dar
After breakfast we take a boat trip on Lake Tana. We visit two orthodox monasteries on the peninsula, where priceless paintings and manuscripts, dating back to the Ethiopian Middle Ages, are kept. The walls of the monasteries are painted with scenes from the New Testament and the lives of local Saints. We return to our hotel for lunch. This afternoon, we visit the waterfalls of the Blue Nile. Return to our hotel for dinner. Mass will be celebrated during the day.
DAY SEVEN: Bahir Dar - Gondar
After breakfast and Mass, we leave for the 120 mile road journey to Gondar.Check into our hotel for an overnight stay. After lunch we visit castles of theimperial era, and the Debra Bhiran Selassie church with its famous ceiling painted with angels, and Zobel castle, which is known as Emperor Fasildas's swimming pool! Dinner will be in our hotel.
DAY EIGHT: Gondar - Axum
After an early breakfast, transfer to Gondar airport for our domestic flight, ET 122, departing 09:15, arriving Axum 10:45. Upon arrival, we visit the most important church in Ethiopia, the Orthodox Church of Saint Mary of Sion, that contains the Ark of the Covenant, which was brought to Ethiopia by Menelik I in the days of King Solomon. Next to the church is a small museum which contains fascinating exhibits which reflect the trade that took place between the Axumite Empire, Egypt and the South Arabian peninsula. We also visit the famous Axum Obelisk, over 1,700 years old, and Queen Saba's palace. Check into our hotel for an overnight stay. Lunch and dinner are in our hotel today.
DAY NINE: Axum - Adigrat
We depart by road after an early breakfast. Our first visit is to Adwa, and the nearby village of Fremona, where in the 16th century, Jesuit missionaries arrived to introduce Catholicism. We will celebrate Mass here, and hope to meet members of the local Catholic community. Afterwards, continue our journey, visiting Yeha, the first capital of the Axumite empire, where we can see a pre-Christian temple dating from the eighth century BC, called the Temple of the Moon. Lunch will be in a local restaurant or will be a packed lunch. In the afternoon we visit Medhane Alem Adi Kesho church, one of the oldest and most impressive of the Tigray rock-hewn churches, with an interior with the atmosphere of a cathedral. Our journey ends today, 120 miles from Axum, in Adigrat, where we check into our accommodation, the Agoro Lodge, for dinner and overnight stay.
DAY TEN: Adigrat - Mekele
Today, on our journey by road to Mekele ( about 90 miles), we will visit some of the amazing Tigray churches, first of all Dugem Selassie church, carved into a granite outcrop, and which feels like a tomb. The second stop in at Abraha Atsbesha Church, one of the most beautiful in the region, with a beautiful carved wooden ceiling. It contains shrines dedicated respectively to Saints Gabriel, Michael and Mary. Our final visit is to Wukro church, dating from the eighth century A.D., a monolithic sandstone church. We have a packed lunch today, and dinner will be in our Mekele hotel, where we have an overnight stay.
DAY ELEVEN: Mekele - Addis Ababa
Transfer to Mekele airport for our domestic flight, ET 101, departing 09:40,arriving Addis Ababa 11:05. We have the use of day rooms in a hotel today, where we also have lunch. In the afternoon, we visit the Orthodox cathedral of Holy Trinity, and the Catholic cathedral of St Anthony of Padua, where we celebrate Mass and meet local Christians. Dinner this evening will be in a typical Ethiopian restaurant with traditional songs and dancing. Afterwards, transfer to the international airport to check in for our flight, ET 700, departing at 01:00.
DAY TWELVE: London
We arrive at Heathrow Airport at 05:50.
This itinerary is subject to change without prior notification
This tour involves a substantial amount of long distance walking, some of which will be over irregular surfaces such as cobblestones and badly-maintained walking areas. If everyday walking is something you find difficult, this tour may be unsuitable for you.
Travel Insurance: £59
Single Room Supplement: £290
Return scheduled flights on Ethiopian Airways: Heathrow - Addis Ababa, Addis Ababa - Lalibela, Gondar - Axum, Mekele - Addis Ababa, Addis Ababa = Heathrow. U.K. and Ethiopia airport departure taxes. 23kg luggage allowance per person. 11-nights accommodation in shared ensuite twin-bedded rooms as follows: Jupiter International Hote, Addis Ababa (4 stars), Panoramic View Hotel, Lalibela (3 stars), Avanti Bu Nileresont Hotel, Bakir Dar (4 stars), Landmark Hotel, Gondar (3 stars), Sabean Hotel, Axum (3 stars), Agoro Lodge, Adigrat (4 stars), and Planet Hotel, Mekelle (3 stars). Meal plan: breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, starting with breakfast on the 18th January and ending with dinner on the 26th January. Meals include water or soft drink, tea, or coffee All touring and transfers by Toyota Coaster Bus as per the itinerary. Boat trip on Lake Tana. Pax Travel tour manager to accompany the group throughout the pilgrimage. Entrance fees as per the itinerary. Private masses.. ATOL and ABTA financial protection.
Travel insurance at £59. Single room supplement of £290 for the 11 nights (limited availability). Lunches and drinks. Fuel surcharges if passed on by the airline. Gratuities for hotel staff, guides and coach driver. U.K. transfers.
Terms of Payment:
To reserve your place on the tour you will need to complete a booking form and return it to Pax Travel Ltd with a deposit of £250 (plus the insurance premium if the cover we offer is required) per person. The tour price is guaranteed until 15th September 2016. Any bookings received after this date may be subject to a surcharge.