Gondar, Nothern Ethiopia

Gondar, or Gonder, is a city in northern Ethiopia, best known for it’s 17th century castle ruins- the walled Fasil Ghebbi fortress, once the seat of Ethiopian emperors. It was the capital of Ethiopia from 1632 to 1855, housing palaces constructed by a series of emperors from Fasilides (reigned 1632–1667) to Iyasu II (1730–1755). 

While there is lots to see in Nothern Ethiopia there is an ongoing war and this is the most Nothern part I could access. It’s unfortunate I didn’t get to visit Lalibela and Aksum which I fantasized about here years ago, but I believe I shall be back. The town is an hour’s flight from Addis Ababa.

I arrived at the airport with no pre-planned accommodation/pre-booked activities, only to find that most hotels were fully booked due to ongoing exams that required teachers to move towns to oversee, thus filling up most spots. Luckily, through the help of a taxi driver at the airport, google translate (He spoke mostly Amharic) and several calls later, I got a gem atop a hill with the most stunning views. I knew I would barely be at the hotel anyway but I did quite enjoy dinners overlooking the lit city.

Goha hotel atop a Gondar hill- (image from their website)

The palace sits on a massive 70,000square metres, walled by a 900m wall with 12 gates. A tour takes 3-4 hours, and includes a guided tour of the various palaces, then a drive to an ancient Orthodox church within the walled complex, and another drive to the 70x40m swimming pool. The guide is availed at the entrance upon payment.

Fasil Ghebbi fortress ruins
Church decoration with angels. The church had a lot of paintings from Biblical text, including Saints from the Orthodox church. Everything is symbolic, even the construction of some of the music instruments.
Cover-ups are given at the entry of the church as the church is still operational, with monks within the inner section of the church. Shoes must also be removed.
Debre Birhan Selassie- as the church is known.
The ancient pool that channeled water from a nearby river and had an exit channel as well.
Old roots sharing resources with the pool boundary.

I had not planned to visit a nearby town- Bahir Dar but my new Ethiopian friends thought it would be a good idea to fly out from the North from Bahir Dar instead of Gondar. I took a public mini-van and the journey took 3 hours, with 2 police stops where all passengers had to alight and show their identification.

Bahir Dar is BEAUTIFUL!. It’s one of the greenest cities in Africa that I’ve seen. It’s clean and airy and hosts the largest lake in Ethiopia, Lake Tana, which is the source of the blue Nile.

I had only one day in Bahir Dar but that was enough for me to make a friend or two.

Boat ride on Lake Tana to see visit some Orthodox monasteries. Hopefully, next time, I shall visit the source of the Nile.

I left for the East, Harar after a day.

See you soon on the Harar post!



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