The rhythm of drums pulses over the street. Colorful umbrellas carried by priests pass slowly my way. The main square of Gondar is vivid and filled up by thousands of people. And I find myself in the middle of this huge procession, with my suitcase in the hand.

www.visiterlafrique gonder ethiopia timkat festival (3)

I just arrived at Gondar and it is the 20th of January. This is not a day like any other. Today Timkat is taking place: the most impressive and holiest festival of Ethiopia. And there is nearly no better place to celebrate it then in the town of Gondar. Located up in the mountains, it is home to an antic palace. And it is the capital of this region.

www.visiterlafrique gonder ethiopia timkat festival (8)

The festival Timkat stands for the reenactment of baptism. For this cause the holy Tabot plates (replica of the ark) are moved out of the churches. Priests wrap them into colorful foulards. Then they carry the plates on their heads, followed by the community. The procession will take the street and meet other groups, until they unite to one immense feast. One group sings rhythmic chorus lines, clapping their hands. Another may dance and sing spiritual songs. Priests will carefully carry the Tabots hidden from the public, and shadowed by massive umbrellas that are decorated with brocade.

www.visiterlafrique gonder ethiopia timkat festival (6)

www.visiterlafrique gonder ethiopia timkat festival (4)

The main part of Timkat is the blessing near a river or a water basin – like in the palace of Gondar. It takes place in the early morning and that ritual takes hours. After that the processions will bring back the Tabot plates – while the drums speak all day, the choruses sing and the rhythm will move the feet to dance.

www.visiterlafrique gonder ethiopia timkat festival (5)

www.visiterlafrique gonder ethiopia timkat festival (3)

It took me long to cross the main square to reach my hotel. I just threw the suitcase on the bed – and dived into this colorful and impressing festival. The holy festival of Ethiopia with a melodic name: Timkat.