During my stay in Ethiopia, I took a long weekend to travel to Lalibela and Gondar. After some research online and talking with various tour companies based in Addis Ababa, I made my decision to engage Zewdu Malek as my tour guide and travel planner. He was always responsive to my emails and we spoke on the phone as well before I made my decision to hire him.
I didn’t have much flexibility when making my plans and Zewdu worked with me to make it all happen. While I booked my internal flights (ADD > Lalibela > Gondar > ADD), Zewdu handled the hotel bookings. We discussed various options and preferences, and I was pleased with the final results – one night at Maribela Hotel in Lalibela and one night at Goha Hotel. Both hotels had lovely views and offered comfortable rooms (with hot running water, good water pressure, towels and breakfast).
I can’t imagine visiting Lalibela without a guide. The history, insights and many local legends would have been missed. On Saturday, Zewdu and the driver picked us up at the airport with a safe and comfortable van (stocked with bottled water). We visited the local Lalibela market before having a traditional mesob lunch at the Seven Olives Hotel. It was a lovely setting under the trees filled with various birds.
We spent the remained of the afternoon exploring the six northern churches and St. George’s. Simply sensational! Sunset and cocktails were enjoyed at the Maribela Hotel before heading out for a nice al fresco dinner at Bet Abeba. We went to a neat traditional bar called Tej Torpido with Zewdu afterwards for the locally made honey wine, which was excellent.
We were fortunate enough to be in Lalibela on a Sunday, which was also a saint’s day. We went early to St. Gabriel-Raphel’s Church in the southern area of Lalibela to witness a church service and it was fascinating to see so many locals, dressed in their white shawls, as they listened to the chanting priest and sought to make it inside the church for a blessing and/or communion. Zewdu has personal insights too – not only did he grow up in Lalibela but his father is also a priest. In the 24 hours that we were in Lalibela, we were able to see all of the churches and visit the market.
Onwards to Gondar by plane – everything worked out smoothly and the next driver met us promptly at the airport. We enjoyed lunch twice at Four Sisters’ Restaurant, a great recommendation by Zewdu. They offer a fantastic traditional buffet, which is a delicious way to sample the local tastes and flavors.
We visited the palace and Fasiliads’ Bath – again, having a guide made it a more enriching experience as we learned about the history and the special annual ceremony of Timkat that takes place in Fasilidas’ Bath.
Before departing Gondar, we visited the very small and underwhelming Falasha village. The history is far greater and interesting than what one sees and experiences at this roadside village.
But on the other side of the road is a wonderful women’s cooperative called Ploughshare where great things are happening. We stopped by to see the traditional handicrafts of the single mothers working there – creating beautiful pottery (the glazed ceramics are for sale), weaving Ethiopian mesobs / baskets, working the looms and designing colorful shawls, and more.
We had a delightful experience exploring Lalibela and Gondar. Zewdu enhanced our travels and allowed us to really appreciate just how unique this part of Ethiopia is. Everything ran very smoothly with Zewdu – he was friendly, respectful, fun and followed up – before and after the trip.
Zewdu speaks English very well. He is amazingly knowledgeable about the famous rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, and the Orthodox Ethiopian community. He also snapped plenty of photos for (and of) us. You can reach him via email or mobile:
+251 913 636 414
I know that Zewdu works throughout Ethiopia, although my experience is limited to Lalibela and Gondar. I would highly recommend his services and hope to travel with him again. Thank you!Edited: 09 March 2017, 16:55