By , Tuesday, Oct 23, 2007, 12:00 AM

Source Article: Ethiopia

Tshayu Mekonen leads his mule Samun down rocky terrain from Asheton Maryam, a mountaintop monastery overlooking Lalibela. Christianity came to Ethiopia in the 4th century A.D. It is the second-oldest officially Christian nation in the world, after Armenia, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has followed its own traditions. (Evelyn Hockstein)

A young Ethiopian girl braids her mother's hair in their village along the hike to Asheton Maryam. (Evelyn Hockstein)

A dramatic landscape on the drive to Yemrehanna Kristos, an hour and a half outside of Lalibela. (Evelyn Hockstein)

An Ethiopian man prays before dawn at Bet Medhane Alem (House of the Saviour of the World), one of Lalibela's 13 stone churches. Each of Lalibela's 13 churches is in essence a statue, carved directly into the soft, red volcanic tuff of the town's central hills. Monolithic, formed from a single piece of stone and still attached to the bedrock, they are rocks cut in the shape of churches. (Evelyn Hockstein)

King Ezana's stele is the main obelisk still standing in Northern Stelae Park in the ancient city of Aksum. The obelisk was carved and erected during the 4th century by builders of the kingdom of Aksum, an ancient Ethiopian civilization, and is named after King Ezana, the first monarch of Aksum to embrace Christianity. It is decorated with a false door at the base, and apertures resembling windows on all sides. King Ezana's stele stands more than 75 feet tall. (Evelyn Hockstein)

Ethiopians enter the church complex at Lalibela through a stone passageway at dawn. (Evelyn Hockstein)

At Yemrehanna Kristos lie the bones of thousands of pilgrims, who traveled from as far as Jerusalem and Alexandria to die at the church. (Evelyn Hockstein)

An Ethiopian girl holds an injera cover on her head on the street in Lalibela. Injera, a staple food in the Ethiopian diet, is a slightly sour, spongy pancake made from teff. (Evelyn Hockstein)

Colorful umbrellas for sale at a tourist shop in Aksum. (Evelyn Hockstein)

An Ethiopian girl prays on the grounds of the church complex at Lalibela above Bet Medhane Alem. (Evelyn Hockstein)

Various Ethiopian foods, including shiro (chickpea stew, back left), tibs (sautéed meat, center) and wat (meat stew, center left), sit atop an injera, which is the base of every meal. This photo was teken at the Lal Hotel in Lailbela. (Evelyn Hockstein)

A woman sifts wheat chaff for wheat to make the communion offering outside of Bet Maryam. (Evelyn Hockstein)

Bet Gebriel-Rafael in Lalibela boasts a plunging façade. (Evelyn Hockstein)

An Ethiopian man prays in the church at Asheton Maryam. (Evelyn Hockstein)

The view from Asheton Maryam. (Evelyn Hockstein)

Mussie Yacub and Bethlehem Tadess on a deck overlooking the obelisk field at the Yeha Hotel in Aksum. (Evelyn Hockstein)