Friday, 12 June 2020 20:55

Gondar,important places to discover-Stay to visit Gonder,the ancient capital city of Ethiopia in the 16th century.

The 16th century church of Debre berhane Selassie Monastery at Gondar.

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The 16th century church of Debre berhane Selassie Monastery at Gondar.
Ton Reve Ethiopie Voyage/Ton Reve Tour and Travel Agency

Gondar,important places to discover-Stay to visit Gonder,the ancient capital city of Ethiopia in the 16th century.

The city lies on a flat ridge of mountains located between the Angareb and Qaha Rivers valleys and includes peaks up to 3,000 m above sea level, which decline South wards to Lake Tana. At a distance by air of about 30 km. its position makes the city a strategic and healthy place.Not affected by malaria. Emperor Fasiladas certainly took that fact in to account when   he decided to establish this new capital .He was the first to build his palace here, followed by his successors in the 17th and 18th centuries. The outcome is an extraordinary historic complex that, since then, has been enchanting travelers and visitors with its fabulous beauty and the UNESCO included in the world Heritage List in 1979.

The Name

The Name Gondar would come from guang dara, aworkd that in the language of the Kemant-an Agaw community living north of Lake Tana and west of Takaze River-means’ between two rivers’,the Angareb and Qaha in another story of the name, Gonder originates from the Amharic expression bagon adar, ‘one should reside beside the other’. The sentence pronounces by the community elders to settle a dispute between Wayne and Sayne.


Gondar’s climate is conditioned by its 2,200 m altitude, with monthly average temperatures that rarely exceed 22 degrees Celsius during the hottest Season of the year, which is between March-May. The main rainy Season is between June and September, with peak rainfall in July and August. The latter are also the coldest months of the year, with averge temperatures around 16 degrees Celsius.

Castle of Fasiladas

This outstanding testimony of 17th and 18th century Ethiopian history was the residence of the founder of Gondar. Emperor fasiladas and his successors .It ranks first among the most important sites of region for the impressiveness of its imperial architecture, which was include in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979.. With official name of fasil Ghebbi.

On site

The royal compound in enclosed by stone wall over 870 m long, only part of which is original. The twelve doors opening in to were given evocative names and were sometimes changed during the century. The enclosure designates the compound in the 18th century royal chronicles. The building of defensive enclosure world have started under Emperor Fasiladas and taken the present configuration during the reign of Emperor Iyasu II. Big stone crosses once stood on the top of the towers adjacent to the wall, as reported by French doctor Jacques poncet , who visited the site in 1699,Bruce, in the second half of the 18th century, highlights the fact that compound was encompassed by a substantial stone wall thirty feet high, with battlements up on the outer wall, and a parapet roof   between the outer and inner’ which made the top of the wall, accessible, thus allowing him to ‘go along the whole and look in the street ‘ A walkable tract of the wall between the places of Mentewab and house of the Chief of the Cavalry remains at the northern end of the compound,


An ancient royal chronicle of the reign of Fasildas says that the emperor ordered the building of this castle in 1635-36 at the beginning of his reign, which lasted from 1632 to 1667, just after he had chosen Gonder as the new capital of the empire. The construction works were completed at least by 1648, when the Yemenite ambassador Al-Hasan Ibn Ahmed Haymi entered the town and was impressed by what he described as a high building among the most wonderful of splendid construction and the most beautiful of glorious marvels built of stone and lime. The Castle of fasildas is with no doubt the most astonishing expression of Gondarine architectural style that, in fact, the visit to the Fasil Ghebbi continues beyond the Balderas ber exit, because it is only from the road outside the compound that the churches insides it can be reached.

Jan Tekel Addababay

A Perfect starting point for a visit to the southern quarters of the city, the area is located opposite the entrance to the fasil Ghebbi as well as what was once its main gate, the jan Tekel Ber. The square par excellence in Imperial Gonder, it is function as public garden ensures continuity with the past. This was also the place where religions functions and praying ceremonies were held, as, for instance, when a fragment of the Holy Wood of the Cross was exposed in the royal oratory tent pitched in the square in addition to the opportunity for a pleasant rest under the shadow of the historic tree.

Debra Berhan Selassie church

The magnificence of the paintings of what has been nick named the Sistine Chapel of Ethiopia makes visiting this church definitely w worthwhile cultural and visual experiences. One can admire the painted walls and also stand under the eyes of the cherubs starting from the famous ceiling, a particularly affecting experiences, given the special powers that Ethiopian tradition and art attribute to eyes. The church had stone walls so skillfully built that they looked like a dimond, 12 doors, and thatched roof surmounted by golden cross with seven spheres the size of an ostrich egg Most interestingly, we know from the same source that the church measured 100 cubits from east to west and from north to south, and it was circular in plan, not rectangular as the present building’s southern and northern sides are with the utmost probability, the external foundations of the original church.

Bath of fasilada

The places is traditionally associated with the name of Emperor Fasildas, though precise historical evidences of its establishment is lacking, we know for sure that it was already in existence in 1699, when the French doctor poncet described it as a palace near Gonder, where there is a magnificent water basn’ and where the emperor goes with all his court to celebrate Epiphany. The attribution to Fasiladas is plausible ,since already his father ,Emperor susenyos ,had a pavilion built at the center of a water pool in Ganata Iyasus ,near the present Azazo ,in 1625. The bath of Fasiladas pool in kept empty the year round ,except for the extraordinary joyful exception of timkat ,The Epiphany .During the 17th century, emperors came here to celebrate and that perhaps explains the building of this pavilion .one of the most important religious holidays in Ethiopia, Timkat commemorates the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River and is held on 11 Tire in the Ethiopian calendar , a date that time , the pool is filled with the water supplied by the nearly Qaha River. On the eve of the holyday, the tabots of seven Gondar churches are carried here in seven simultaneous procession, on top of priests heads. After they reach the pool, priests say prayer all night long to bless its water, into which the next morning the patriarch plunges a cross to baptize it, as Jesus was baptized in the Jordan. Blessed water is then sprayed on the worshippers, who can then touch the water and even jump into it. The tabots are brought back to their churches on the 2nd and 3rd day after the baptism of the cross. A replica of the palace stands in the Mostra D’Oltremare complex in Naples, Italy, since1940.


Empress Mentewab founded this citadel in 1730s and made it an architectonic reflection of her famous beauty. She personally supervised the project design and chose many of the exquisite interior decoration of the buildings of this large complex which include the church of Dabra Tsahay (currently known also as Qusquam Maryam) a castle functioning as a residence,a sumptuous adderas or banqueting hall, The site is called after the Egyptian town of koskam ,where, according to Christian tradition,the Holy family rested during the flight into Egypt . Mentewab established Qusquam a few year after her husband, Emperor Bakaffa, had passed away in 1730 and the throne was given, the same year, to her 7-year old ,Iyasu II. It was only from June1771, however ,that the empress chose it as a permanent residence ,after the defeat of Ras Mikael had put an end to her short exile from Gondar .she made Qusquam the center of her political and religious power ,and the decisiveness and intimacy of her relationship with the place emerge from the beginning ,when she wanted her and her son’s graves to be built inside the church .she also wanted the site to be a stronghold, and for this purpose had it encircled by a big wall built with lime and provided with towers. The Scottish explorer James Bruce lived for some time at qusquam court in 1771 and tells us how lively the area was ,with the outer precinct ‘all occupied by soldiers, laborers ,and out –door servants’ ‘principal officers , priests ,and servants’ living in the church’s enclosure,’ ‘noble women ‘ sharing the empress’ premises, and ‘houses of people of quality ‘, usually member of the royal family , behind the place ,higher up the hill’ Qusquams decline began most probably after the death of empress Mentewab in the first half of the 1770s and was hastened by the pillage of the church’s treasure by the army of Emperor Tewodros IIin the 1860s. It was an already ruined landscape that the late -19th –century European travelers described after visiting the site. Nowadays, silence usually reigns in this almost –deserted place, except for the students of the local religious school living in the tiny huts scattered to the south of the external wall that is visible just before the entrance gate.

Wolleka –The Falasha village

The Name designates the Ethiopian Jews, who often reject the term ‘’Falasha” traditionally given to them by the Christians because if it’s pejorative meaning. The name is said to derive from the condition of exile caused by the deprivation of the right to inherit farming and during the reign of Emperor Yeshaq I( 1414-30) during the reign of Yohannes I. the jews were affected by the same discriminatory provision enacted against the Muslims. In fact when the Scottish explorer James Bruce arrived in Gonder in 1770, he found that their village were scattered in the town’s surrounding A mong those villages there most probably was wolleka.

Located about 4km north of the city center, on the road to semien mountains and Aksum, the village of wolleka owes its fame to the Ethiopian Jews-known as Falashas –but more correctly referred to as Beta Israel .The fame of the village remains today, but the Ethiopian Jews lift for Israel in 1991 and since then have been replaced by Christians. This was one of the several Beta Israel villages scattered around Gonder, because social and religious discrimination historically prevented the Jewish people from living in the city. The name walleka, in fact, derives from the Amharic wolek (to stay away), and local tradition says that such was the answer given by Emperor Fasiladas to the Jewish masons when, after completing the construction of his castle in Gondar, they asked him where they could settle. With the massive airlifts organized by the Israeli government during the 1984-85 drought and then in 1991, Wolleka dwellers left behind their rural houses, the graves of their ancestors, and a handicraft tradition that has pottery as its most famous output. Taking advantage of the local availability of clay soil, in fact, the local Christian dwellers have taken over the making of pots, bowls. Jars, candle holders, and figurines, all on display on stands and in workshops alone the road, together with textiles, calabash container, and baskets. Figurines are particularly noteworthy and have acquired increasing popularity outside Ethiopia .Despite their ancient –looking style, historians have found their origin in wolleka in the 1960s, when local Ethiopian Jewish women engaged themselves in the production of small clay dolls, initially modelled on pictures of prehistoric figurines or inspired by everyday life, and later depicting rabbis with scrolls, the lion of Judah, and other elements of the Ethiopian Jewish tradition.


This very Small and quiet lakeside town cannot compete with Bahirdar for importance or dimension but possesses a much more intimate appeal. Moreover. It is the natural gateway to northern coasts and islands of Lake Tana, places rich with art and history where Emperor Susenyos established his first capital, and magnificent churches were built between the 13th and 17th centuries. Despite its beautiful position and the presences of historic monuments such the 13th-century Dabra Sina church and Maryam Gimp, the town of Gorgora is relatively recent and has not yet exploited its significant touristic potential. Infact the town has grown a little since the Italian occupation. The company, established by the Italian Buschi,Kept running the port facilities and what is now the Gorgora port Hotel until their nationalisation in the mid-1970s .Gorgora area, on the contrary, boasts a longer and much more glorious history dating back to the foundation of the Dabra Sina Church and Mandaba Monastery in the 14th century and the establishment of Maryam Gimp by Emperor Susenyous and the Jesuits in the 17th century.

Debra Sina Church

Debra Sina Church was founded during the reign of Emperor Amda seyon (1314-44) by himself or by AbuneTomas Tradition says that Amda Seyon had the church built after he had defeated the four bandits who were terrorizing the area it also says that the church builders went Zage peninsula to buy the twelve wooden poles now surrounding the maqdas, but when they came back after having managed to buy only eleven them, they realized that the twelfth had followed them a cross the lake. The first and still sole tabot is dedicated to St. Mary, while the church bears the name of Mount Sinai. According to local history,the church building is original and apart from the roof, well plastering   and other minor interventions,

Mandaba monastery

According to local history, The church was founded in 1320 or 1321, during the reign of Emperor Amda seyon , by Abuna yasay ,who came from Northern shewa (see Birgida Island) since its establishment, the church has been dedicated to Medhane Alem (the saviour of the world). Tradition says that the name Mandaba was given to the monastery because Abuna Yasay came to the island transported by a stone tanqwa and the local people were so impressed that they called him man ende Abba (nobody can do like Abba). The stone tanqwa, with its gifgif (see Bahir Dar, Wayto community), can be seen inside the church compound, near the northern door. In the 17th century, local tradition says, Emperor Fasiladas had the maqdas and qiddest rebuilt to enlarge the church, and since then only the outer wall and the roof changed. A spiritual force would have hindered Ahmad “the Gragn” from destroying the church .today, the monastery hosts 62 monks and priests.

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