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Sof-Omer cave

One of the world’s most spectacular and extensive underground caverns: the Sof Omar cave system, Which is found in the low land part of Bale Mountains. The weyib river, which sources from the Bale Mountains National Park, penetrates the caves year round, offering a magnificent view to the visitors. Sof Omar is an extraordinary natural phenomenon of breathtaking beauty. At 15.1 kilometres long, Sof Omar Cave is the longest cave in Ethiopia and the largest system of caves in Africa, through which the Weib River flows.

The large central hall of Sof Omar, the ‘Chamber of Columns’ — so named after the colossal limestone pillars that are a dominant feature — is one of the highest of the cave system. At another part of the net work there is a small gap in the rock through which the river passes, about two-and-a- half meters (eight feet) wide, where a bridge can be made with driftwood to go across. The most direct route through the caves passes these and many other remarkable sights, and takes about three-and-a-half hours at good walking pace. The cave which is an important Islamic Shrine was named after the saintly Sheikh Sof Omar who took refuge here many centuries ago. The cave has a religious history that predates the arrival of the Muslims in Bale – a history calculated in thousands of years.

The Weib River, which sources from the Bale Mountains National Park, flows to the caves creating a magnificent view. It used to be a mosque back in the 12th century at the time of the holy man Sheikh Sof Omar who took refuge in the cave around early 11th century. As a sacred place of worship, Sof Omar cave system structures are assigned and designated to diverse ritual practices. Annual festive events with comprehensive Islamic religious processions from around Ethiopia are conducted in the cave shrines and mosques of this underground limestone caverns.

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