Ethiopia throbs with religious fervor. On Sundays in Lalibela, Aksum and Gondar, I was alone in thousand-strong crowds of monks and nuns, hermits and business owners, energetic children and bent-double grandmothers. They wrapped themselves in white or burnt orange and poured into the churches that dot the landscape.
It is a society with a more profound spirituality than anywhere else I have been to—one where worship is woven into nearly every aspect of life. And during my trip, it became clear that this veneration of the church was born from a belief that Ethiopia has been chosen by God as the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
There is only one man alive who has seen the alleged Ark in all its biblical glory. It is, according to Ethiopian lore, hidden in a church in Aksum—a small city in the northern highlands—and guarded by a single monk. Nobody else enters the room and only after his death will the monk leave the grounds.