In between the old and new St Mary of Zion churches is the real reason for most people’s devotion: a tiny, carefully guarded chapel that houses what most Ethiopians believe is the legendary Ark of the Covenant. Don’t think you can take a peek: just one specially chosen guardian has access to the Ark, and even he is not allowed to look at it.
Nobody else is allowed in the chapel and foreigners aren’t even allowed to approach the fence guarding the chapel grounds because previously some foreigners tried to scale the fence and rush into the chapel! No matter what you think of the legend, there’s no denying that to be in this church compound during a major service or festival, when thousands of pilgrims pour into the city, is an experience of pure devotion and faith that will leave you spellbound.
Note that the building currently has a leaky roof and the ark may be moved, at least temporarily.