Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia. It is the source of the Blue Nile River as well as home to several island monasteries and convents. Of the monasteries, Ura Kidhane Mihret is reputed to be the most beautiful. Like most tourists, we arrived by charter boat from the nearby town of Bahir Dar. The ride takes about an hour and once on land, it’s about a 10 minute or so walk to the monastery. Warning – the entire path from the boat jetty to the monastery is lined with souvenir vendors. Instead of shopping, I chose to enjoy the walk through the forest and attempted, to no avail, to spot monkeys leaping between tree branches.
Ura Kidane Mehret sits in the heart of a glade that is surrounded by a forest of coffee trees. The church dates back to the 16th century and typical of churches in Ethiopa, Ura Kidane Mehret is circular in shape on the outside. Inside, the actual chapel is six sided and the walls on all six sides are beautifully painted frescoes depicting various scenes from biblical lore and the history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. There’s a certain whimsy to the style of religious paintings in Ethiopia that gives them an almost child like charm. I smile just looking at them. There’s not much to see in the monastery – you’ll be in and out in less than a half hour. Although it seems like a lot of travel time and effort spent for a very short visit, it is worth it.