Debre Libanos is a monastery in Ethiopia, lying northwest of Addis Ababa in the Oromia Region. Founded in the thirteenth century by Saint Tekle Haymanot, the monastery’s chief abbot, called the Ichege, was the second most powerful official in the Ethiopian Church after the Abuna.
The monastery complex sits on a terrace between a cliff and the gorgle of one of the tributaries of the Abbay River (the Blue Nile). None of the original buildings of Debre Libanos survive. Current buildings include the church over Tekle Haymanot’s tomb, which Emperor Haile Selassie ordered constructed in 1961; a slightly older Church of the Cross, where Buxton was told a fragment of the True Cross is preserved; and five religious schools.
Along the side of the church, you cross a river and proceed on foot up a hill for about 15 minutes. According to legend, the Ethiopian Saint, Tekle Haimanot, prayed for 7 years (or 29 years, depending who you ask). The legend says that he stood on one foot for so long that the other foot fell off. Sick people queue to receive holy water (which is believed to be a sign of the saint’s prayer).
There is controversy about the origins of the so-called Portuguese Bridge. According to some, it was built in the 16th century by Portuguese; others say that it was built by Ras Darge (who was Menelik’s uncle) in the 19th century. After crossing the bridge, go to your left by the side of the river until you reach on a large rock suitable to view the 600m waterfall. The best time to see this is in the Ethiopian rainy season (July-September).
You should see Galada Baboons, which are endemic in Ethiopia.
How to get there
Leave Addis on the Gojjam road to Debre Libanos, which is about 110 km from Addis Ababa or approximately two hours drive.
To get to the Portuguese Bridge: On the main road from Addis Ababa, just after the turning point to Debrelibanos, continuing on the main road for less than one kilometers and turning to the left on a gravel toad then you stop your car in compound and continue down to the bridge on foot.
There is a new lodge, owned by an Ethiopian man and German woman (who happens to be vegetarian). You can stay the night, overlooking the Jemma Valley Gorge – very peaceful though there is nothing to do. You can get injera and wat thought not ferenj food.