Guides & stone throwing at Tigrai churches

Hi Philip
I am going to Ethiopia for my first trip soon, Planned to stay in Wukro for some time as a base to explore the tigrai churches in some detail.Did you go to teka tesfai without a guide?
I have read recent forum posts about people going without an official guide who got a lot of hassle, including being stoned . A bit unsettling to say the least. Would be interested to hear what you heard/ experienced Any comments on this from others who ahve been there would be most welcome.

Best wishes


5 thoughts on “Guides & stone throwing at Tigrai churches

  1. philipbriggs says:

    Hi Caroline,
    I have never used an official guide to visit any of the Tigrai churches. I have never had a serious problem, though I didn’t research the latest edition, so we are going back a few years.
    I’ve not had any other reports of this sort of thing in Tigrai specifically, but I have had stones thrown at me by kids a few times in Ethiopia over the years, and other readers have complained about it too. My honest feeling is that it probably won’t happen to you in the space of an ordinary vacation, and if does I don’t know that Tigrai poses any greater risk than any other part of the country.
    Other readers experiences are welcome!
    Best, Philip

  2. Bridget says:

    Hi Caroline and Philip

    I went to Teka Tesfai at the end of last year. I took an unofficial guide but would recommend the officials because I then used them the following day to explore further a field churches, they were more knowledgeable and take an exam of the local history to be given the job. Also finding the keys for the respective churches, considering the walk can take a while it’s disappointing not to then get in. One idea is make sure you have change of 10’s rather than hundreds so you can tip the priest, kid who got the priest. There is a lack of change around out in the country side and they will take all of it if they can.
    It can be difficult to find tourists to share the costs of vehicles with and usually works out to 500-600/day for the vehicle.
    Have a good trip.

  3. philipbriggs says:

    Hi Caroline,

    Brian Blatt, whp updated the 5th edition, just got back with this reply:

    I visited the Teka Tesfai cluster coming from the north, and was not with an official guide. We drove our 4×4 as far as the path would allow, and then continued on foot to Medhane Alem Adi Kasho. Along the way I was greeted by three boys who wanted to guide me to the church. As I accepted their offer, there was no opportunity for bad behavior. The priest was having lunch when we arrived, and the locals were eager for us to try some thuloh, a spicy dish unique to the Tigrai region. The church admittance fee of 50 birr per person was non-negotiable, and the priest showed me around at a leisurely pace. After tipping the priest and one other man who was in charge of the key, I gave a few birr to each of the boys who led me there.

    If you are starting from Wukro, then hiring an official TTC guide can certainly make things go more smoothly, and is well worth the expense. (My driver was able to communicate in Amharic, but having a local who speaks Tigrigna is a real plus.)

    In all of my trips to Tigrai I have had only one instance of rock throwing–at our car, and from a distance. I agree with Philip that this is a rare occurence. I also second Bridget’s advice about bringing plenty of small bills; there are usually more people to tip than you might plan upon.



  4. Tim Weglewski says:

    I visited Abuna Yemata Guh by bicycle coming from the Gheralta Lodge in Hawzien. The priest asked for 60 birr and, indeed, since I only had a 100 birr bill he did not plan on giving me my change. So I borrowed the correct amount from one of my new “friends of the day”, payed the priest the correct amount and cycled to the nearest town where I changed my money and gave my friend a tip. At least here I felt it was well deserved! In the end the priest admitted he had hoped that tip would have been for him.
    Concerning the stone trowing – that only happened to me when I went long distance running and when I would ignore the kids. This seemed to be the successful way to get my attention… but to put it in perspective – we are talking about 2 stones and one lemon during a total of 10 hours running in Ethiopia and many hundreds of kids!
    By the way, as a runner I would not call that stretch of road between Megab and Dugem “very flat” 😉

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