I finally took my “Monastery Tour.” My hotel is only a few blocks away from Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. My guide and I share a morning cup of coffee before strolling casually through the park that boarders the lake and the docks where boats of various sizes wait patiently to be freed from their moorings.
It absolutely blows me away that I’m actually on the Nile that fed ancient civilization. This is where the earliest known human remains are found. The Queen of Sheba and Alexander the Great traveled these waters. Ethiopians even say Mary brought Jesus here for a short while and point to where they took refuge.
The Bete Maryam Monastery (also called, “Dber Mariyam”) sits on an island of the same name. It hosts 25 families who’ve lived there for over 150 years. Children from the population 125 island used to occasionally swim to Bahir dar daily to attend school, but the main transport has always been small boats made of from papyrus reeds. Today, a variety of motor boats and ferries travel the Blue Nile, but papyrus reed boats are still seen. Each lasts approximately 2 months before it’s burned and returned to the soil.
To be honest, I was taken aback a bit when a gauntlet of individuals began to appear requesting money to enter the Bete Maryam Monastery gate… but it’s their source of income, and thank God they stopped after the third person appeared along the trail.
Entering the gate a non-impressive round building came into view. Once covered with hides and thatched grass, Corrugated metal forms the round roof that shelters the original 900 year old church.
I’m not Catholic, but Ethiopia is a spiritual land of Orthodox Christians and Islamic Muslims. Out of respect, I’ve learned how to cross myself and bow before entering. Inevitably, the mood… the feeling one gets is deep reverence within walls where millions of prayers have been prayed over centuries.
I will have to study more on Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christianity because there’s so many conflicting timelines involved… when did the Greeks bring the Bible Vs. When was Christianity brought to the country? Regardless of the dates, spirituality is deeply woven into the culture. To be an Ethiopian man, one is expected to be a hard worker, PROUD, faithful, and strong of spirit. To sustain such aspects of character without becoming arrogantly Narcissistic, a working connection with a Higher Spirit and/or a cultural spiritual discipline (i.e. Buddhism) is required.
For more photos and an even better review of the island, click on: “Thirdeyemom”