Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles As the sun rises, one of the most diverse countries in the world wakes up. Many tragic events have taken place here. But when you take a closer look, an incredible life force becomes apparent. The beauty, spirit and variance of the country and the people is worth celebrating. Ethiopia has an abundance of ecological niches with amazing diversity. In the east you find one of the hottest places on earth. The Danakil depression is a vast dessert 100m below sea level with salt plains, colorful hot springs and several active volcanoes. In the west, the rainforest is still filled with bountiful life. It is the only remaining rainforest in north eastern Africa and it's decreasing in size every year. The sof Omar cave In the southeast almost looks man made with it's great sandstone entrance. In the south the animals enjoy the rivers, lakes, and savannas. In the center the great highlands rise up. Nicknamed the roof of Africa they reach altitudes exceeding 5,000m. They provide a unique habitat for many species of animals not found elsewhere. It was in these mountains that the first capital was founded and the Christian civilization started. It is a land of many legends and mysteries. The rock hewn churches of Lalibela puzzle scientist still to this day. People have adapted for millennia in their vastly different surroundings. This has resulted in a flora of cultures, languages and traditions. The specialized skills and knowledge they have acquired over hundreds of years have kept many people isolated until the end of the 20th century. We will visit some of the people, and the land they live in, in search of that powerful life force, in their lives beyond the headlines. Remains and many tombs of the old emperors are open to the public in Axum. The Axumite empire went to its grave in the 9th century. Some 300 years later, in Lalibela, another emperor had great impact on history. In what appears to be a normal mountain top, you find great ancient mysteries. Beta Ghiorgis - the house of St. George is one of hundreds of rock hewn churches in Ethiopia. Each one cut straight out of the volcanic mountain. Every detail carved out by hand produces a structure that is hard to imagine as one single piece of rock. This historical site is as living as the old Christian faith you find in the people coming here to worship. They make their pilgrimage here in the thousands to witness the mystical rituals during pre-dawn mass. The passage to the church entrance leads down through narrow paths and tunnels. Along the way people are gathered to celebrate mass and to receive their blessings. Christianity was introduced to the Ethiopians in the 4th century. Since then, music has been crucial to the survival of the church through times of hardship. It still plays a central role in the ceremonies and creates an atmosphere from a different time. In the caves chiseled out in the rock around the churches priests and monks practice the ancient songs. Many of the monks live in the walls around the churches. Small caves and chambers have been cut out to provide sleeping quarters. Connected by tunnels and narrow passages Lalibela has 11 of the greatest rock churches in Ethiopia. It is still a mystery how these churches were created , but most Ethiopians agree. The myth of king Lalibela holds the answer. In the 12th century A Prince was born in Roha, the old name for Lalibela. The reigning monarch grew jealous and poisoned him. In his struggle with death, the prince was brought to heaven where his true purpose was revealed. He was to live and become king. In return he was to build 11 churches unlike any built before. As soon as he was crowned king, he set out to fulfill his task. The work was carried out side by side by men and angels. Others say that the king visited Jerusalem and that the angels of the legend were crusaders helping to build a second Jerusalem. Just like in Axum, it is claimed that the lost ark is kept here. In the holiest of each church there is a priest who has devoted his life to protect it. It is hard to know what is fact and what is legend but one thing is certain, incredible skill and knowledge were needed to create these magnificent churches. Another place where the ark is claimed to be guarded is in lake Tana - the source of the blue Nile. Some say that the Jews who followed Menelik from Jerusalem stayed on the 37 islands in the lake. There they have guarded it ever since and that is how the Falasha Jews came to Ethiopia. The Falasha Jews are yet another mystery. They still practice the old Jewish traditions dating back 2000 years. Some say that they are pagans who converted to Judaism and others say that they are the lost Israeli tribe of Dan. The water from Lake Tana makes its way down the mountains passing the largest water falls of Ethiopia. It is named Tis Issat - water that smokes, At the Blue Nile falls the water drops 50m on its way down through Ethiopia and Sudan to Egypt. The river cuts a winding path through the highlands, as deep as the Grand Canyon, on its journey to the Mediterranean sea 5,000 km away. Not far from Lake Tana is Gondar. This was the capital from the middle of the 17th century. It was founded by Emperor Fascileados He built a palace for himself and every successor followed in his footsteps and constructed castles in the same compound. The castles are said to have been covered in ivory and gold at their prime. Gondar remained the capital to the end of the 19th century. The reason for moving from both Axum and Gondar was the shortage of fire wood. The emperor Menelik and his wife Taitu Spent some time in a military camp on the Entoto mountain where they felt it was ideal to live. They called it the "New flower" Addis Ababa. At this time the fast-growing eucalyptus tree was imported from Australia and firewood was produced on a greater scale. Addis Ababa is a increasingly westernized city with extreme contrasts. New is mixed with old and poverty is side by side with abundance. This is where the last emperor in the Solomonic dynasty ended his life. Haile Selassie was not only an emperor, to many he is still a god. RasTaferi Mekonnen was born in 1892. When he was crowned emperor in 1930 he was given the name Haile selassie According to he Rastafarians the prophesy from the old testament was fulfilled. They had found their god. When the Italians invaded Ethiopia in1936 Rastafarians all around the world protested. As thanks for their support Haile Selassie gave them some land in Ethiopia to call their own. Rastafarians from different parts of the world have moved to their new homeland to create a new world with their faith as a cornerstone in society. But the Rastafarians are a very small part of the population. Most of the people live in the highlands. The majestic highlands cover the majority of the Ethiopian countryside. Two thirds of the country is situated on altitudes above 2000 m. The altitude has one big advantage. Malaria is not a problem in many areas. But farming this land is no easy task. The population has exploded the last 50 years and there are now more than 80 million people in the country. Every fertile piece of land is used. The mountains look like a three dimensional patchwork of fields climbing up the slopes. In the horn of Africa Cushitic, Semitic, and Nilotic people have intertwined creating an amazing diversity of people. There are more than 70 different ethnicities with their own languages and cultures only in Ethiopia The Amharas and Tigrai people live in the highlands. Together with the Oromos they make up three quarters of the population in the country. Since almost half of the population is under the age of fifteen the children start working in the fields at an early age. The Amharas are farmers and still work their land the old style. They plow with the help of oxen and harvesting is done by hand. A common crop is the local grain teff which grows well at these altitudes. Livestock is used to thresh the harvest before the seeds are separated and ready to use or to be sold. Another big source of income for the highland people is raising livestock. There are more livestock here than anywhere else in Africa. Further up in the highlands there are some 25 peaks reaching altitudes over 4000m. There are times when snow falls up here. This area has been nicknamed the alps of Africa. It is not hard to understand why the Italians felt at home in the alpine surroundings. But it is not only people who like the unique African climate. The Galeda baboon is also fond of the area. There are more than 20 species of animals not found anywhere else than in Ethiopia. Most of them are birds but one of the endemic species is the Galeda baboon. They live in larger groups than most other primates and feed primarily on grass. You can find groups with up to 600 animals. Their long fur keeps them warm in the cold nights they spend on cliffs far from predators. They are very social animals and they seem to know how to enjoy life as they graze away. The Galedas always feed as a group. In the drier part of the year they dig for roots and eat herbs. It does look a little bit dry at the moment but the dry season is coming to an end. Suddenly one day, they come blowing in. Life, in the form of clouds. If they fail to come it will be a disaster for many. The rainy season varies tremendously in different parts of the country. Some areas in the west have eight months of rain a year In the east you might just have a couple of days of rainfall. The clouds roll in. Like a blanket they cover the mountains and the whole landscape changes as the tropical storms build. Just some weeks after the rains have started the highlands turn green. It looks like spring has arrived. But in the east there is still no rain. In the Danakil desert it hardly ever rains. This is not just another dry dessert. This is where three continental plates of earths crust meet. It is known to geologists as the Afar triple junction. The continental breakup produces a valley caused by the sinking of the ground when the earth pulls apart. The ground is more than 100m below sea level. The movement also creates cracks, faults, hot springs and volcanoes in the region. The sulfur and potassium salts spraying up in the hot springs create this multicolored landscape. Together with the acid lime green ponds it looks like a different planet. The active springs are usually white yellow, while older springs turn rust-colored from oxidation The rock on top of the hot springs is filled with holes like a sponge which makes it a dangerous place to travel. When a pond dries up it leaves beautiful shapes of salt and minerals. There are even lakes formed from the springs with decorative salt deposits along the edges. With the geyser and yellow upwelling the lake almost looks like a cauldron filled with a bubbling witches' brew. But this is not the only storybook location around here. Just 150 km away there is a black mountain standing some 600m above the desert floor. You might expect Bilbo Baggins to come climbing the mountain at any second. The name Erta Ale translates in to the mountain that smokes.