The Blue Nile river flows out of the lake with tremendous force and volume over the basalt shoulder in a giant cataract and onwards from there, ever downwards through dark and angry defiles, towards the deserts of Sudan on its way to enrich Egypt’s fertile delta.
The power of the Blue Nile may best be appreciated just thirty kilometers downstream from the point where the river first leaves Lake Tana. There, a rumble of sound fills the air and the green fields and low hills on either bank tremble to the Blue Nile falls. It is one of the most dramatic spectacles on either the White or Blue Nile, a vision of natural strength and grandeur.
A stiff climb up a grassy hillside under the blue and breathless sky follows. Finally, the falls come into view, the smooth, majestic edge of the rolling Nile breaking into a thundering cataract of white water foaming and breaking down a dark cliff.
Rivaling the attraction of the Blue Nile Falls are the thirty-seven islands of Lake Tana.
Lake Tana is source of the Blue Nile and also treasure for Christian religion covering an area of 3000 Sq kilometer. Some twenty of these islands shelter churches and monasteries of significant historical and cultural interest. Because of their isolation they were used to store art treasures and religious relics from all parts of the country.
Kibran Gabriel, the nearest monastery to Bahar Dar, is renowned for a magnificent manuscript to the Four Gospels which is believed to data back to at least the late fourteenth, or early fifteenth, century.
Access for some of the churches is closed to women, who are allowed to land on the banks of the island but not permitted to proceed further. However women are permitted to visit churches on Zeghe peninsula and nearby church of Ura Kidane Mehret, as well as Narga Sellassie. The traveler with ti me, could spend weeks exploring the treasures of Lake Tana and its many islands.
The third principal attraction is Daga lstanfanos, considered one of the most sacred on Lake Tana, and said to have served as a temporary hiding place for the Ark of the Covenant. On this stands the church of Saint stephanos which houses the holy Madonna painted around 1434. The real historic interest lies in its treasury where there are glass-sided coffins containing the mummified remains of several of the former emperors of Ethiopia.
For centuries Bahar Dar has been a place of commercial importance. Situated on Lake Tana’s south-eastern shore, it is the starting point of any visit to the Blue Nile Falls. The visitor will no doubt see small bots on the lake shore. Still standing is the building erected by the Jesuit pero paes, which can be seen in the compound of Saint George’s church. Emperor Haile Selassie’s modest palace is on a small hill to the right of the road after the bridge. Bahar Dar, though bustling and pretty, is often looked at as just a base from which to visit the area’s two main attractions: the Blue Nile Falls and Lake Tana.