Gondar, Ethiopia (CNN) — France has Lourdes, India has the Ganges. Ethiopia, meanwhile, has Gondar.
Situated about 450 miles north of Addis Ababa, encapsulated by hills and tall trees, and dotted with 17th-century relics from the city’s glory days (when it was the country’s capital), Gondar today can seem somewhat remote. During the religious festival of “Timket,” however, the city is inundated with pilgrims who come to re-enact the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, and take a dip in the holy waters at the historical Fasilides Bath.
Nearly two thirds of Ethiopia’s 94 million population is Christian, and the majority of those belong to the Orthodox church. For them, Timket — celebrating the Epiphany — is among the most important occasions of the year. It’s is a two-day affair that begins with a procession of “tabots,” holy replicas of the Ark of the Covenant — the sacred chests described in the Book of Exodus as carrying the stone tablets on which the 10 Commandments were written.
The tabots are wrapped in cloth and placed on the heads of Ethiopian Orthodox Christian priests, who parade the streets en route to the bath. The priests, clad in ceremonial robes, are escorted by drums and by the clapping and singing of worshipers, who hold an overnight vigil until dawn.
There are services the following morning which culminate in the priests blessing the waters of the historic bath, while onlookers crowd every nook surrounding the bath — some getting a pristine view from nearby trees.
When the priests are done, the mood turns jubilant, and the spectators rush to jump into the pool…Read More on CNN
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