- Hike: Moderate, 1 hour.
- Paintings: 14th century, lower paintings faded, but the ones out of reach are still vivid.
- Views: Incredible.
- What I Like: Different views, manageable hike, unique church, great painting.
- Overall Experience: Top five.
This church has a number of different names. It is known as ‘Debre Tsion’, which is the name of the mountain, ‘Kidane Meherat’ or ‘Abuna Abraham’. Most people refer to it as ‘Abuna Abraham Debre Tsion’ because there is another church that is just called ‘Abuna Abraham’ that is near to this one but has no paintings. Yes, it’s confusing. Abuna Abraham Debre Tsion was the first church built on the Debre Tsion mountain by Abuna Abraham (1350-1425 AD) himself, in the 14thcentury. Once you enter the compound of the church you will be immediately struck by the view of the Hawzen plain below.
This church can be reached on the road between Degum and Wukro. There is a sign that will lead you to the right, down a dirt road toward the mountains. The first time I visited this church was on Good Friday. My husband and I set out from Mekelle at midday, and by 3pm we were already climbing toward the church.
Leading up to Easter, the members of the Orthodox church take part in a 55-day vegan fast, but on Good Friday they eat and drink nothing to remember what Christ did on the cross. Our guide effortlessly climbed the mountain with us even though he had nothing to drink or eat all day.
When we reached the church the locals were still in the middle of the Good Friday service that they had been attending since early morning. From the doorway we had the opportunity to observe their rich tradition of worship at this ancient, but still very active, church. When the service was finished, the priest let us look inside at the magnificent paintings.
As we were leaving, the people from the service were just breaking their fast with injera and they offered us some, which we took with some reluctance knowing we had been eating all day and these people had eaten nothing. But we felt so honored to partake in the tradition and hospitality of these people of God.
You may not get to go to this church when there is a service, but it is an amazing experience whenever you go. It is a much easier hike than Maryam Korkor but still has fantastic views, amazing paintings, and a unique church structure carved into white sandstone.