Amid clouds of incense and swathed in white robes, priests of Ethiopia's ancient Christian Orthodox Church yesterday chanted their last Mass ahead of today's new millennium.
The country's unique calendar runs almost eight years behind the West's Gregorian version, meaning that millions of people marked New Year's Eve 1999 last night.
Pilgrims gathered in the medieval capital, Lalibela, where 800-year-old monolithic churches are carved below ground out of the solid rock of a 8,500ft-high basalt plateau.
"We thank God that we are alive at this important time, when we can honour our ancestors and our Church and pray for another 1,000 years of worship," Aba Gebera Yesus, Archbishop of Lalibela, said.
....Ethiopia's tourism office proudly peppers hotels, restaurants and airport lounges with a colourful poster boasting the country's "13 months of sunshine".
Its unique Ge'ez calendar, based on the ancient Egyptian system, is seven years, nine months and 11 days behind the one adopted by Pope Gregory in 1582.
It also has 13 months per year - 12 of 30 days and a final month of five or six days depending on whether it is a leap year.
Locals joke that the word millennium in Amharic, the country's unique language, is "menem yellum", which translates as "there is nothing".