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Exploring Ethiopia: The Timkat Festival

With its spectacular highlands, bustling cities and ancient culture, Ethiopia is a destination like no other. It offers a unique and unforgettable glimpse into one of the oldest civilisations on earth.

Birth place of the coffee bean, home to more UNESCO sites than any other country in Africa and with one of the oldest alphabets still in use, Ethiopia is a fascinating country with a lot to offer visitors from around the world.

Though it makes a great destination at any time of the year, one of the best months to visit Ethiopia is in January when the country bursts into life to celebrate the ancient Timkat Festival, one of the most important dates in the Ethiopian calendar.

What is the Timkat Festival?

Celebrated by orthodox Christians across the country, Timkat marks the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.

Today, Ethiopians see the festival as an opportunity to renew their baptism vows; it is considered by many to be one of the greatest festivals of the year.

timkat celebrations

How is the Timkat Festival celebrated?

Festivities actually begin on the eve of Timkat. Tabots (replicas of the Ark of the Covenant) are wrapped in rich cloth and slowly born by local priests through towns and villages across the country. They are taken to the bodies of water where the celebrations will take place the next day.

During the procession, pilgrims dressed in rich, colourful robes chant, sing and play drums in honour of the sacred Tabot. Quite a sight for any first time visitors to the country and one that will stay with you forever.

Early the next day, the priest will bless the water before worshippers enter it in a re-enactment of the baptism. Following this the priest will escort the Tabot back to the church and people will depart for feasts and celebrations across the local area.

Combining a trip to the Timkat Festival with a tour of Ethiopia

From the spectacular Blue Nile and the ancient walled city of Harar to the carved rock churches of Lalibela and the Obelisks, temples and palaces of Axum, Ethiopia has a lot to offer in the way of attractions.

Spend your days exploring the bustling city of Addis Ababa or head into the beautiful Ethiopian Highlands for a unique and unforgettable trip that will leave you with a deeper understanding of the country.


Whether you’re travelling on a tailor-made holiday or as part of a group, it’s easy to combine a trip to the cacophony of sights and sounds of the Timkat Festival with a longer visit to this spectacular country.

As one of the most important cultural and religious celebrations of the year, combining a trip to the Timkat Festival with a tour of Ethiopia is a fantastic way to gain a deeper understanding of this ancient country and is guaranteed to enhance your visit to the Horn of Africa.

Visit the Timkat festival on selected January departures of our Blue Nile and Lalibela adventure.


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