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Debere Libanos Monastery and the Jemma River Valley

The 13th century AD monastery of Debere Libanos is found 130 km from the capital Addis Ababa. The trip to this old monastery gives a myriad of experiences for travelers. Apart from its golden and stellar medieval Ethiopia history, the area is famed for its stunning scenic view, abundant bird species, and a chance for hiking. Nestled within a steep riverine canyon, the monastery has been a center of monastic order and Ethiopian Orthodox Church education. Founded by the Ethiopian St. Tekelhyamnot, the monastery is the repository of the medieval Orthodox Church history of Ethiopia. During the long period of its establishment, the monastery has faced many ravages. But the worst comes during the first half of the 20th century. The Italian army destroyed the original church in 1937 and carried out a mass massacre that claimed the lives of 800 monks, deacons, and lay worshippers. The modern church, its domed roof decorated with stained-glass windows, remains an important pilgrimage site. The Portuguese Bridge near the monastery offers a chance to hike and enjoy the picturesque Jemma river valley. Although the locals believe the stone-arch Portuguese bridge was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, it was actually built in the 1890s by Ras Darge in the Old Portuguese style. The narrow span makes a spectacular picture and the gushing (in the rainy season) cascade just below it is very impressive.