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Ethiopia women tattoos 03
Lalibela
By Lola García-Ajofrín
10 Dec 2015

In Lalibela, Christians display tattoos, following a mix of tradition, faith and aesthetics. This practice started centuries ago.

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Ethiopia women tattoos 01
Lalibela
By Lola García-Ajofrín
06 Dec 2015

When this Ethiopian Christian woman in her late seventies, who prefer doesn't says here name, was a young girl, she inked her neck "like a sign of faith and to become beautiful", she explains with a big smile. "My friends did also". In Holy City Lalibela, in Ethiopia, many of the all women wear Christian Tattoos. She arrives with two friends, three women also in her seventies who also wear tattoos. One of them a black cross on the forehead. They were on white because the morning mass in the astonishing St. George's Church has just finished and they have been sitting in the sun for a chat. In Lalibela, Ethiopia, Christians wear tattoos as a tradition that started centuries ago. It is not a new trend. The world's first tattoo on record is 5,000 years ago and it was found in Europe.

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Ethiopia women tattoos 02
Lalibela
By Lola García-Ajofrín
06 Dec 2015

In Lalibela, Christian eld women have their necks and faces covered with tattoos, a practice from centuries ago. But Islam, Jewish and other indigenous faiths contributed to a variety of tattoo traditions. When they were young girls, they inked her neck "like a sign of faith and to become beautiful". In Holy City Lalibela, in Ethiopia, many of the all women wear Christian Tattoos. They were on white because the morning mass in the astonishing St. George's Church has just finished and they have been sitting in the sun for a chat. In Lalibela, Ethiopia, Christians wear tattoos as a tradition that started centuries ago. It is not a new trend. The world's first tattoo on record is 5,000 years ago and it was found in Europe.

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Ethiopia women tattoos 04
Lalibela
By Lola García-Ajofrín
06 Dec 2015

In Lalibela, Christians display tattoos, following a mix of tradition, faith and aesthetics of a practice from centuries ago.

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Ethiopia women tattoos 06
Lalibela
By Lola García-Ajofrín
28 Nov 2015

A young man in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia with Christian symbols tattoos.

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Ethiopia women tattoos 05
Lalibela
By Lola García-Ajofrín
13 Nov 2015

Designer Zelalem in Zola Tattoo, in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. His name, Zelalem, in Amaric means "Always". He says it fits with his job: "Tattoos are forever". In Zola Tattoo, one of the few tattoo studios in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, most of the clients ask Christian tattoos. Some pictures of their latest creations are on the wall: a crown of thorns on an afflicted Christ stains a shoulder; a pair of hands with a rosary adorning an arm. In Ethiopia Christian have inked their skin during centuries. "My grandma had a tattoo", Zelalem says. But it was a traditional tattoo made at home. Even today most of the people don't wear professional tattoos. Zelalem tells "It's imposible to find the materials. In my case my brother who lives in Italy send them".In Zola Tattoo, one of the few tattoo studios in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, most of the clients ask Christian tattoos. Some pictures of their latest creations are on the wall: a crown of thorns on an afflicted Christ stains a shoulder; a pair of hands with a rosary adorning an arm. In Ethiopia Christian have inked their skin during centuries. "My grandma had a tattoo", Zelalem says. But it was a traditional tattoo made at home. Even today most of the people don't wear professional tattoos. Zelalem tells "It's imposible to find the materials. In my case my brother who lives in Italy send them".

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The Pilgrimage (25 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
31 Dec 2012

A group of Ethiopian Orthodox Christian pilgrims gather at the edge of Bet Giyorgis for morning prayer. The pilgrims, many dressed in white, travel by foot from all over the populous country to pay tribute in the small mountain town of Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (19 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
31 Dec 2012

Pilgrims rest in the evening near the holy rock churches of Lalibela. In anticipation for the coming Christmas celebration, thousands of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians set up camp in the days leading up to the event. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (14 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
31 Dec 2012

A pilgrim returns to the camp near Lalibela's rock churches. Thousands of the pious will sleep on the fields in anticipation for the upcoming Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas celebration. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (17 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
31 Dec 2012

Pilgrims descend towards of Lalibela's 11 stone churches. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (16 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
30 Dec 2012

A pilgrim reads from the bible along the steep walls of Lalibela's stone churches. Originally built in the 12th and 13th centuries as a second Jerusalem for Ethiopia's Orthodox Christians, pilgrims arrive to the site each year to celebrate Orthodox Christmas. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (13 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
30 Dec 2012

An Ethiopian Orthodox Christian priest greets pilgrims as they descend upon Bet Giyorgis, the iconic cross-shaped church. The church, along with 10 other rock churches, make up Lalibela's pilgrimage site. Inside each church is a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, which is viewed only by the priests and deacons. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (21 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
30 Dec 2012

Pilgrims make the journey back to their camps in the late afternoon. Coming from all parts of the country, the pilgrims rest on the grass outside of the church complex during the Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (26 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
30 Dec 2012

Smoke and mist hang over the mountain town of Lalibela, home to Ethiopia's yearly Christmas pilgrimage. From all over the country, pious Ethiopian Orthodox Christians travel to the sacred rock churches. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (24 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
30 Dec 2012

A group of women enter one of Lalibela's largest rock churches. Carved from the mountain to evade detection, the holy site is meant to represent a second Jersusalem to Ethiopia's Orthodox Christians. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (27 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
30 Dec 2012

A group of pilrims gather for prayer at Bet Giyorgis, the cross-shaped church. Lalibela is a holy site for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, with churches hewn from the mountain. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (22 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
30 Dec 2012

A group of young Ethiopian Orthodox Christians read from a bible during a morning prayer service at one of Lalibela's holy rock churches. Pilgrims flock to the area for the Orthodox Christmas celebrations. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (18 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
30 Dec 2012

A lone pilgrim reads from the bible along the stone pathways linking Lalibela's 11 stone churches. Built after the 1187 invasion of Saladin, the church complex hides below the ground in order to evade detection. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (29 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
30 Dec 2012

A group of pilgrims return to their camp after visiting the holy site of Lalibela. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (20 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
30 Dec 2012

A pilgrim leaves the rock church Bet Giyorgis in the late afternoon, prior to the Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas Celebration. Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (15 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

A pilgrim enters one of Lalibela's rock churches. Hewn from the mountain, these churches were originally built below ground to evade detection. Called the 'Petra of Africa' due to its striking similarity to Jordan's Petra complex, this site relatively unknown (outside of Ethiopia) draws thousands of pilgrims each year for the Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas celebration. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (28 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

A group of pilgrims recite the bible at an early morning prayer at the holy complex of Lalibela. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (8 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

Wrapped in shrouds of early morning mist and cotton, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians stand in prayer at the edge of Bet Giyorgis, the rock church carved to resemble a cross. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, in the small town of Lalibela, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (7 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

In the 1500s, King Lalibela had 11 churches hewn from a 'mother rock' in order to create a holy place underground safe for pilgrims to worship and evade detection. The result was so captivating that the first European to enter the site wrote "I am weary of writing more about these buildings, because it seems to me that I shall not be believed if I write more." Lalibela's vision ensured continued worship for hundreds of years, with masses of the pious still congregating each Christmas. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (6 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

Narrow tunnels underneath the churches and within the mountain connect the churches, and as the number of pilgrims swell dramatically with Christmas approaching, the passages become an increasingly tight traverse. Stories of long treks echo off the cool stone, with one pilgrim sharing a story of his group's barefoot journey of more than 8 days in order to reach Lalibela. As so many villages are within reach, more than 60,000 pilgrims descend on the churches each Christmas. Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (4 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

Resting against the rock face of the church, an Orthodox Christian is caught in a moment of contemplation. Each of the underground churches contain a thick and richly colored curtain hiding a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, viewed only by priests, deacons and bishops. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, in the small town of Lalibela, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (3 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

Pious Ethiopian Orthodox Christians stand above the cross-shaped stone church of Bet Giyorgis. After congregating early in the morning, the pilgrims travel down the stone steps of the church to be blessed by the priest. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, in the small town of Lalibela, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (2 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

Rows of pilgrims from villages all over Ethiopia file down paths on their way to be blessed by priests and visit the holy site of Lalibela. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, in the small town of Lalibela, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (1 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

Pilgrims make their way through a key-hole opening in the rock churches of Lalibela during an annual voyage for Orthodox Christmas. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, in the small town of Lalibela, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (12 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

A young Orthodox Priest takes part in the prayers early in the morning at Bet Giyorgis, the cross-shaped stone church in Lalibela. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (11 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

An Ethiopian Orthodox priest awaits pilgrims in one of Lalibela's 12 stone churches. Pilgrims flock to the holy city each year for Christmas. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (10 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

Religious iconography is carved into the stone of the many rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (9 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

A pilgrim prays against the wall of Bet Giyorgis, the cross-shaped stone church in Lalibela. Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.