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7

One by one, the most important church leaders take place on the podium. Obscured by

a flaming red cloth, the tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant, is borne on the head

of the patriarch. After the Church Father has immersed the sacred cross into the water

and baptised the surrounding bystanders, it is time to liven things up with music and

dance. The boys move their prayer sticks in synchrony, the girls are singing and ringing

their sistras to the rhythm of the many drums. The celebration reaches its climax when

the high priest signals it is time for the 'collective baptism'. The other priests shower

the crowd with water from garden hoses from all sides, and the crowd bursts out in

joy, delirious with excitement.

Festival of Timkat