Timket takes place in January on the day before Epiphany. It is the most important religious (orthodox christian) feast in Eritrea and Ethiopia and unique for these countries and the world. Timket combines the feasts of Epiphany and St.Michael, the most important saint in these countries.
In Eritrea, where these photographs were taken in the capital Asmara and the harbourtown of Massawa on the Red Sea, Timket is a National Feast Day for the whole population existing out of half Muslims and half Christians, apart from some 5% animists.
Everybody except for the priests is dressed in white. The priests are wearing extravagant, velvet dresses with lots of colourfull embroideries and umbrella’s decorated with religious images. Unique are the wooden caskets (known as tabot’s) wrapped in clothes and carried on top of the priests heads under thick decorated carpets. These tabot’s are replica’s of the Ark of the Covenant. All more than 20.000 orthodox churches in Eritrea and Ethiopia keep a replica of the Ark that is supposed to be brought to Ethiopia after the destroying of the first Temple. Another story tells that Menelik (born out of the relation between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba) travelled from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to visit his father, stole the Ark and brought it back to Axum in the province of Tigris where it is supposed to be until today.
Interesting is that – apart from the tabot’s – other Jewish elements can be found back in the strange rollicking dances of the priests and the laity (the movements are very similar to these during orthodox Jewish ceremonies) and the archaic music of sistra, tambourines, trumpets, drums and cymbals.
After mass the priests sprinkle water on the congregation to commemorate the baptizing of Jeusus and soon a lot of people sprinkle each other with water. Hereafter the feasting, singing and dancing continues in the streets of the towns.