Home Bolivia & Peru Cambodia Canada Chile China Cuba Czech Rep. Ethiopia Euro. Microstates France Guatemala Iceland India Ireland Italy Kalmykia, Russia Karakoram Highway Laos Madagascar Mali Morocco Myanmar (Burma) Papua New Guinea Poland Spain Turkey UK USA Yemen Guestbook
Front Page Preface Timket Gondar Axum Debre Damo Lalibela Lake Tana Epilogue
click to enlarge
Timket Eve (Jan. 18th, about 2pm). The traditional horns herald the beginning of the three-day festivity.
Timket, or Timkat, is Ethiopian language for Epiphany. Although the holiday commemorating Christ's baptism in the River Jordan is observed by Christians all over the world, Timket is of special significance in Ethiopia. It is the most important and colourful event of the year.

The festival starts at Timket Eve, January 18, eleven days after the orthodox Christmas. Although the festival is largely religious, it has no lack of secular elements such as partying and match-making.

click to enlarge
Young men in Gondar celebrate the festival fervently and zealotly, with prayer sticks and horns. Scenes like this was described in the Bible when the Israelis welcome Mose from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments.
click to enlarge
Dressed up in festival gowns, young women chant "Haliluya" with their hands swinging left and right. While the celebrations by girls and young women are more gentle and melodic, elderly women (background) also take part in. The tongue-twisting, high-pitch squeak can be heard all over the town.
According to the Ethiopian epic Kebra Negast, the Ark of the Covenant was abducted from Jerusalem to Ethiopia during the first millennium BC. Since then, it has become the most sacred element of the Ethiopian orthodox church.

click to enlarge
Priests in colourful regalia carry the Tabot (the Ark of Covenant, but actually the tablet of Law housed in the Ark) of their respective churches gather at the town centre, accompanied by a troop of clergies and a huge enthusiastic crowd. Timket is one of the few opportunities that folks could be close to the Tabot, which considered to be the most sacred item in Ethiopian Orthodox Church. However, no one has taken a true glimpse of the Tabot, as it is always covered by gilded silks.
Early afternoon in the Timket Eve, the replicas of the Ark, covered by silks, are carried solemnly by priests from each church to the nearby body of water. Accompanying the procession are tens of thousands of church members and believers, chanting, dancing, drum-beating, horn-blowing, prayer-stick-waving and sistra(a simple musical instrument)-rattling. All in all, it resembles the scene described in the Old Testament.

click to enlarge
As night falls, temperature turns cold. Pious believers line up in front of the tower for overnight vigil.
click to enlarge
Holy water splashed to the photographer, who shared every moment of joy.
As evening falls, the priests and the pious believers participate in overnight vigil around the Arks until dawn. Then huge crowds gather around the water. After the chief priest blesses the water, the celebration reaches its climax. Many jump into the water, the rest are eager to get a splash. After the religious vows are renewed, some of the Arks are paraded back with the same celebrating fashion.

click to enlarge
As the last man in regalia disappears into the door of the church, the three-day festival has finally come to an end. For a foreigner who has never witnessed the enthusiasm and ardent passion about religious faith, every bit of sound and action during the festival will not only engrave into his memory but also remind him forever the hope of life.
The festival does not end until the third day, dedicated to the Archangel Mikael. With parade no less magnificent than the previous two days, the rest of the Arks are carried back to their respective churches.

Timket in the town of Gondar is undoubtedly the most interesting. The bath pool in the historical palace built by the Emperor Fasiladas during the 17th century stages a dramatic backdrop of the event, while the garden surrounding the pool provides believers a perfect ground for prayers and overnight vigil.

Last Update: October 24 2009 01:21:53 -0500