Gondar

748 kilometers from the capital of Ethiopia is Gondar, served daily by Ethiopian airlines, with some good hotels. The oldest of Gondar’s many imperial structures is the impressive 17th century palace of Emperor Fasilidas. Many other fascinating historical buildings and relics can be seen in the area.

Gondar, once the Ethiopian capital, was home to a number of emperors and warlords, courtiers and kings.

Gaze down fromthe balconies of the many castles and palaces to imagine the intrigue and pageantry that took place back in the 17th and 18th centuries of this great city.

The graceful city of Gonder, founded by Emperor fasilidas, become the capital of the Ethiopian empire around 1635.This settlement, which become fasilidas principal headquarters, grew into an important town, and remained Ethiopia’s capital, and most popular city, for over tow centuries.

Fasilidas endowed his capital with a sizeable palace, known as the fasil gemb, or Fasil   building. It was larger and more impressive than any structure in Ethiopia up to that time.

Fasilidas, who reputedly constructed many other buildings and bridges in the city, was succeeded by his son, Emperor Yohannes (1667-1682), and later by his grandson, Iyasu1 (1682-1706), both of whom built more palaces in the vicinity of fasil gemb. Iyasu’s most lasting achievement was the church of Debre Berhan Selassie, the light of the Trinity, which stands, surrounded by a high wall. The inside is marvelously painted with great scenes from religious history.

Apart from the famous castle in the royal compound, visitors should inspect the so-called bathing palace of the Emperor. This two storey crennellated stone structure has a flat roof and two wooden balconies.

It is set the middle of a large rectangular bath, reminiscent of a modern swimming-pool, which was traditionally filled with water brought by pipe from the nearby Qaha River. It was intended fro the Timket Celebrations which commemorated the Baptism of Christ-a use to which the bath is put to this day.

Timkat celebration at GondarSeveral more palaces were raised by both Yohannes 1 and Iyasu 1. They later built a large two-storey crennelated structure beside that of their grandfather Fasilidas.

The reigns of the first three Gondarie rulers thus witnessed a steady expansion of the city, in the course of which an imperial quarter came into existence.

Gondar is a town of fairy-tale medieval castes and is noted fro the design and decoration of its churches, masterpieces, which were constructed from stone in the from of crenellated castles, are of a significant distinctive design.

Flanked by twin mountain streams Gondar retains an atmosphere of antique charm mingled with an aura of mystery. The city was once a vigorous and vital centre of religious learning and art. Painting and music, dance and poetry, together with skilled instructions in these and many other disciplines, thrived for more than two hundred years. Fasilidas and his successors saw their elegant capital as a renaissance of Ethiopian culture and so patronised the arts.

The fascination with painting, mainly expressed through church murals, icons, illuminated manuscripts and scrolls, has remained. Religious themes dominate all but the most recent Ethiopian art.

It is also worth visiting the ruins of the palace and abbey of the redoubtable 18th century Empress Mentewab at Quesquam overlooking Gondar. The royal compound, like that at Gondar proper, contains a number of buildings. The largest was apparently used for receptions and served as headquarters of the garrison.

The palace compound was surrounded by a 'high outer-wall;' which was about a mile in circumference, with outer precincts all occupied by soldiers, labourers and out-doors servants. Quesquam is wonderful and historic place.

Outside the palace compound, a second important building constructed during Iyasu's reign is the church of Debre Birhan Selassie (or light of Trinity), which stands on raised ground to the north west of the city. This is the finest of the Gondarine churches, with its ceiling decorated with many winged angels.

In the old days it was surmounted by a gold cross, which is now gone. However, original walls painted from top to bottom with scenes of Biblical lore and medieval history are well preserved.

Because of its extensive population, and the considerable patronage offered by both state and church, Gondar emerged as a major handicraft centre. Many of the city's principal artisans come from minority groups. Falasha (Jewish) craftsmen include blacksmiths, weavers and masons, and their womenfolk are potters. Muslim craftsmen are mainly weavers and tent­makers, some of whom also served as tent carriers and carpenters.

The small town of Debark, 101 kilometres to the north of Gondar, provides a base from which to explore the Simien Mountains. Visitors to the unforgettable mountains are able to see animals such as the Gelada baboon and Simien wolf, which are unique to Ethiopia. The edge of the gorges form the perfect habitat for the Walia Ibex.

Scarred and dissected by countless deep ravines, tumultuous forces shaped the dramatic landscape of Ethiopia’s Mountains.