Saturday, July 26, 2014

Trekking Kulubi-Gabriel

Kulubi-high. (Or not.) Chewing on sugar cane, after the climb.
So, colleagues at the university have been talking about Kulubi all week. It's supposed to be a huge Ethiopian Orthodox Church pilgrimage site. And this week is apparently one of the two feast days of the site dedicated to St. Gabriel. 

Kulubi is less than an hour away from Dire Dawa, see, so why not?  But actually, a couple of the other Filipinos (Ma'am Luzzette and Ma'am Ana) and I had talked about going to Harar yesterday but the weather went nasty in the afternoon (rains and thunderstorm) that we decided to cancel and perhaps just join the other friends who've talked about goin' to Kulubi today.

So there we were, very early morning, at the Dire Dawa bus station, converged with the others and found a minibus going to Kulubi. But as we neared the site, it was apparent that we will have to walk the rest of the way. The main highway (to Addis Ababa & back) has become one super congested and super long parking site. People were not kidding when they said this was a huge pilgrimage site. (Considering it's about 10-11 hours away from Addis Ababa by coach bus.)

A deserted highway, normally.
So, off we went and followed the other "pilgrims" who has found this shortcut but trickier pathway towards the actual Kulubi Gabriel church. Hence, the title of this post.

Not an easy climb, especially if one didn't expect a climb.
But amazing view.

The road towards the Kulubi site was even tougher to navigate. You know the rains that hit Dire Dawa yesterday (hence the cancelled Harar trip)? Also came down on Kulubi, of course. 

Plus, we walk with the goats, sheep, and cows that are about to be slaughtered in the makeshift restaurants to feed the hundreds of hungry pilgrims.

Some 411 on Kulubi Grabiel:
The feast of Saint Gabriel (Kulubi Gabriel), the Archangel, is celebrated on December 19 Ethiopian calendar (28 Dec Gregorian calendar) and 26 Jul, 2010/Hamle 19/ which culminates in a pilgrimage to Kulubi, about 68 kms from Dire Dawa City. Orthodox Tewahedo Christians mark the celebration with colorful processions and ceremonies. Pilgrims (about 100,000 followers) walk up the hills to the church to fulfill a vow and give gifts to the church. Some pilgrims carry heavy rocks on their back up the hill to the church. St Gabriel is the Patron Saint who guards over homes and churches. There is a huge pilgrimage to St. Gabriel's Church at Kulubi Hill. Many pilgrims carry heavy burdens as penance, children are brought to be baptized, and offerings are made to be distributed to the poor. The church was built in 1880. Kulubi is the largest pilgrimage place in Ethiopia. | Source: Addis Tour Operation
The present church was erected in 1962 by Emperor Haile Selassie, replacing one his father Ras Makonnen had erected to celebrate the Ethiopian victory in the Battle of Adwa. Nega Mezlekia, in his Notes from the Hyena's Belly, describes the discussion inhabitants held over dedicating a church to St. Gabriel when "there were already two churches within twenty kilometers dedicated to the same saint. ... and that prayers and pleas directed to one saint, at the same hour and form two separate locations, had ended in disaster, for the requests of the two parishes were too often mutually exclusive." (Wikipedia)

So where's the account on the actual Kulubi Gabriel church visit? Ehrrm. The crowd got to me. When we reached what I thought was the end of the long walk, turned out to be the end of that stretch of walk. There was another stretch, a climb to a long flight of stairs, which was even more crowded than the dirt road. (And I always feel uncomfortable being a "tourist" in a religious gathering.) So I gave up. Me and Andy, actually. 

So, there. 
The must-have jump shot.

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