|Murals in the Ura Kidane Meret monastery depict scenes from both the Western and Ethiopian Orthodox Bibles.|
We pitched our tent on the grounds of the Ghion Hotel, beside the lakeshore, and spent the afternoon relaxing and watching the birds (an eclectic mix of parakeets, vultures, pelicans, hornbills, seagulls, fish eagles, pigeons, and plume-tailed songbirds) clatter through the treetops.
A rumbling four-wheel-drive, all-terrain tour bus pulled up as we were arranging our tent, and dumped out a few dozen British, Australian, and American tourists (including a fellow Baltimore native—against all odds, it somehow happens everywhere). They were traveling from Cairo to Capetown with Dragoman Tours, and having been cooped up with each other for many days, were
even happier than we were to chat with someone new.
Jacqueline and I joined their group the next morning for a boat ride to one of the many monasteries that dot the islands and shores of Lake Tana. The Ura Kidane Meret monastery, like most in Ethiopia, is round, and built around a central sanctuary (the maqdas) closed off to all but the monks. The monastery was built in the late 1500s, our local guide explained, and houses a number of "priceless religious things" (which were hidden away in the maqdas, unfortunately).
But for visitors, the walls of the inner sanctuary are the monastery's principal draw. They are adorned with centuries-old paintings of Biblical scenes in the distinct Ethiopian style, today vividly touched up by local artists.
Over a solid hour, the guide led us full circle, pointing out scenes like St. George's slaying of the dragon, Noah's construction of the ark, Jesus's resurrection, Moses receiving the ten commandments, John the Baptist's beheading, and a number of others that are found only in the Ethiopian Orthodox Bible (which contains about 20 additional chapters).
The visit to the monastery was the main event of our two days in Bahir Dar, which we left today, bound for other destinations further north.