Religion in the Simiens
In the Simiens there is a mix of various peoples from three religions, Christian, muslim and jewish.
Christians make up perhaps the largest group and their churches are spread around the park, largely on the southern side.
Jewish people were very evident in the Simiens up until the mid 1980s. Then came an Israeli supported exodus to Israel of the falasha (jewish people).
Muslims now make up an important group in the central plateau area and there are several mosques.
From a historical viewpoint, one of the most interesting places to visit is Deresge Maryam in Janamora district which is where King Tewodros II was crowned.
The picture shows a gilted gold processional cross. But there are many fabulous treasures including a gold engraved Kebero or drum.
Deresge Maryam, the church where Kasa the first emperor was crowned
In the 19th century, Ethiopias regions were ruled by warlords, some of them claiming to be descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. This period was known as Zmna Msafint, the age of the princes and the capital was Gonder to the north of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. One of these princes was Webe, who, after thirty years of warfare felt tantalizingly near to fulfilling his dream, being crowned emperor of a united nation. However, he lost the final battle against a young warrior named Kasa. Although Webe had built a church in the highlands it was his opponent Kasa who would be crowned at the church of Daresge Maryam,. The church was consecrated in 1852 and the paintings probably started around the time of Kasa's coronation in 1855.
Kasa took the name of Emperor Tewodros II and, after initial military successes, became more ruthless and cruel. He dominated the highlands, a vast area of Northern Ethiopia . During his reign there were no roads over the mountains, only small tracks, so he did remain long at Daresge Maryam. He moved his capital from Gonder to Debre Tabor in the east and later to Magdala goal of the military expedition by British forces in 1868 and scene of the famous battle involving the troops of Queen Victoria.
The Walk to the Monastery of Saddique Amba
(Two hours Down and Three hours back)
If you stand on the road outside the lodge and look down the escarpment slightly to your left, you will see a monastery someway down. It seems quite close, especially in the late afternoon sunlight if the air is clear. But in fact it takes two hours to climb down even if you are a good walker. Only a handful of tourists have ever made the trip. Most are frightened by the sheer drop.
In 1640 a monk named Welde Saddique searched for a place to hide Christian treasures from the marauding Muslims who were lead by the notorious Mohammed Gragn. The monk found a way along a small ledge and finally around the mountain. It led to a field, an Amba in amharic, and here he decided to build a monastery. In 1987, during the communist time, soldiers broke into the monastery and stole the jewels which have never been seen again.
In 2015, Simien Lodge management decided to help the local people repair a wall that had partly been destroyed by the soldiers. It has recently been completed and now the intention is to restore the paintings of the inner wall or Maquedha containing the two wooden tabots with the scriptures of the ten commandments. One tabot is of the Holy Saviour and the other is for the Virgin Mary. But you cannot visit or go into the inner sanctum since that is forbidden in all Ethiopian churches. You can only admire the views from the outside and wonder how Welde ever found his amba in the first place.
The walk down to the monastery is well worth it and you will return with a sense of achievement having been to a place were so few tourists have trodden. Be prepared for a three hour walk back up.
In the red circle you can just make out some walkers following the path along the tree line.
Nigist Towers, 2nd floor, Kazanchis Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
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Lodge: +251 582 310741
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