Zuqualla is an imposing sight that rises hundreds of meters out of the Great Rift Valley, and dominates the horizon when driving between the rift and Addis Abeba, no matter which of the three routes is taken. Most people who climb the mountain are locals who do so for religious and spiritual reasons, as there is an ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Church at the top. However, the climb is also an excellent way for anyone to explore the geography, flora, and fauna of Ethiopia.
While every Ethiopian Orthodox Church is expected to maintain a sacred grove symbolizing the Garden of Eden, the church atop Zuqualla has one of the largest. It is a thick forest full of towering junipers with a rich understory that supports antelopes and colobus monkeys.
Perhaps most enchanting is that the forest rings a serene crater lake. This lake is the only one of the Debre Zeit crater lake chain that sits atop a mountain. The climb is best accomplished before the afternoon sun, as there is no shade before the top. On the upper section of the mountain, fields of teff appear, and the breeze gets noticeably cooler. On a clear day or when the city lights come on at night, Addis Abeba can be seen from the top.
To get to Zuqualla from Addis Abeba, there is a right turn on the main road just after Pyramid Hotel entering Debre Zeit. Go past the gravel pit, asking for directions along the way, as there are a few turns and the road does get more primitive. The approximately 25km journey requires a vehicle with good clearance and ends at a little village called Mariam Wember at the foot of the mountain. Vehicles can be parked in front of the little store or bar, but parking should be negotiated before setting out, to avoid any misunderstandings. The fee, however, should be paid upon return to the vehicle.
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