Gondar

 From kings and churches to emperors and castles: another not-to-be-missed stop on Ethiopia's Historic Route is what has been called the 'Camelot' of Africa: Gondar. Gondar is a Royal and ancient historical city of Ethiopia. It is the home of many Emperors and Princess who lead the country from the 12th century to the last decade of the 20th century. To mention just a few, Emperor Suseneos, Emperor Fasiledes, Empress Mentwab, Iyasu I, Tewodros II, Empress Taitu. It is the home of the highest mountain in Ethiopia, Ras Dashen, and the Simien Mountains National Park.

It is easy to imagine the intrigue and pageantry that took place back in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when Gondar, then the Ethiopian capital, was home to a number of emperors and warlords, courtiers and kings. One only has to stroll through the banqueting halls and gaze down from the balconies of the many castles and palaces here to drift back into a long-ago world of battles and court conspiracies.

Nestled in the foothills of the Simien Mountains in north western Ethiopia, Gondar became the capital during the reign of Emperor Fasilidas (1632-1667), who built the first of a number of castle-like palaces to be found here. He established a tradition that was followed by most of his successors, whose buildings greatly enhanced the city's grandeur.

Gondar, which rose to prominence after Ethiopia went through a long period without a fixed capital, emerged in the seventeenth century as the country's largest settlement. In its day, the city was an important administrative, commercial, religious, and cultural centre. It was famous for its sophisticated aristocratic life, its church scholarship, and its extensive trade, which took its merchants to Sudan and the port of Massawa as well as to the rich lands south of the Blue Nile. Gondar was also noted for the skill of its many craftsmen.

The city retained its pre-eminence until the middle of the nineteenth century, when Emperor Tewodros II moved his seat of Government to Debre Tabor and later to Mekdela. As a result,  Gondar declined greatly in importance and was subsequently looted in the 1880s by the Sudanese Dervishes. By the early nineteenth century the city was a mere shadow of its former self. More recently, its appearance was not aided by the fact that several historic buildings were damaged by British bombs during Ethiopia's liberation campaign of 1941. Most of Gondar's famous castles and other imperial buildings nevertheless survived the ravages of time: and together constitute one of Ethiopia's most fascinating antiquities.

Read 53 times Last modified on Friday, 29 September 2017 11:33
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