Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tourism and Development in Lalibela: Ethiopia Day #8

arrival in Lalibella
“I haven’t seen a goat that thin lately,” says Patricia, our local partner from CST. We have just landed in Lalibela and are en route to our hotel. The skinny little goat munches on a sparse bush outside the van window. We are starting a two-day tourist jaunt to see the famous rock churches of Lalibela in the Amhara region that date back to the 12th century.

There has been no rain here either it seems. My other first impression is that the mountains have nowhere near the same level of terracing for agriculture as what we saw in Tigray. We are also told that there has not been as much social progress here with respect to women’s equality as in other regions of the country.
St. George's -  the
most famous church of Lalibela.

Child marriage, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), are still a problem. “The challenge is providing an alternative livelihood for the women who make a living by performing FGM,” Patricia tells us. This is something that I had never thought of.

About 14,000 people live in Lalibela. Our guide cannot give us an exact figure of how many people the industry employs, but estimates that it may be close to 60%.

The conversation now steers towards the relationship between tourism and development. In our experience at D&P, it has not always been a happy one. One thinks of the 2005 Tsunami where poor people ended up displaced from prime coastal land to make way for resorts that would never benefit them. During the course of our visit, it is hard to see that tourism has brought much to the town. The infrastructure is poor and we are harassed here by begging children and teenage hustlers more so than any other place we have been.

Elizabeth shows a local child her photo.
The churches though are truly beautiful. Carved straight out of the volcanic rock, it is said that King Lalibela made them with the help of angels. My thought is that the people of Lalibela could use the help of angels once again.

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