Gondar deserves at least half a day to explore this extraordinary faded European-like town.
This city in northwestern Ethiopia. It is at an elevation of 7,500 feet, and is built on a basaltic ridge with streams flowing to the nearby Lake Tana.
The city was the capital of Ethiopia from 1632 to 1855 and remains of magnificent castles and churches from its rich past are still present.
There are many stories and legends. Emperor Fasilides founded it circa 1635. Nobody quite knew why the emperor chose to build his capital there, but one of the popular legends declare that an angel prophesized about the Ethiopian capital being built at a place whose name starts with the letter G.
The history of the city has always been surrounded by politics and intrigue. During the war against the militant Muslim leader Ahmed Gragn in 1543, Portuguese soldiers came to aid Emperor Lebna Dengel and settled around Lake Tana. The Portuguese slowly gained influence over the country during the reign of Emperor Susneyos, whom they converted to Catholicism. This was followed by a violent persecution against thousands of Orthodox Tewahedo Christians, which resulted in a revolt against the emperor.
He was however, slightly redeemed when abdicated in favour of his son, Prince Fasilides. The prince then repaired the damage by reuniting church and state and became successful at bringing peace back to the kingdom. He made Gondar the capital of Ethiopia and built a castle, which remains famous to this day.
The town served as Ethiopia's capital until Emperor Tewodros II moved the Imperial capital to Magdala when he became Emperor in 1855.
The Italians have left their mark on the city. You will notice some typical Italian architecture from the 1930's throughout the town. During WW II, Gondar served as their headquarters after the fall of Addis Ababa. The city was bombed by the British Royal Air force, which sadly destroyed a number of historic buildings.
The Fasil Ghebbi or Royal Enclosure is a walled compound of 17th-century castles and buildings. It is also worth a visit to the Fasilida's pool which is a couple of kilometres from town.
The lavishly decorated Debre Birhan Selassie church is a kilometer from the town and well worth a visit. The paintings are out of this world.
There is also a colourful mercado (market) where you can buy the beautiful, fine white cotton shamas that the elegant Ethiopian women wear.