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The Splendor of Gondar in Ethiopia

Gondar is located in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia, within the Semien Gondar Zone. The population of the area is approximately 230,000. The splendor of Gondar is a wonderful place to see, as it was once the imperial capital of the Begemder Province.  Due to the presence of royal castles, it has been nicknamed “The Camelot of Africa.”

Prior to the 16th century, there was no fixed capital for the Solomonic Emperors of Ethiopia. They were housed in temporary tents and moved around the region. Gondar was founded approximately in 1635 by Emperor Fasilides who known to have visited a hermit which allowed the capital to be established. Fasilides built his castle on site and filled the pool near Angereb. He also built seven churches in the area, including Fit Mikael and Fit Abbo. These were put in place to stop ongoing epidemics. Five other emperors worked with Fasilides, and built their personal palaces nearby.

In 1668, the population of Gondar was ordered to be separated by religion from the church council. Muslims then moved into their own quarters, known as the “House of Islam,” which is known today as Addis Alem. The population of the area exceeded 60,000 during the 17th century, but much of the buildings have survived many of the changes that have occurred. Once the capital moved, the city was plundered, burnt, and invaded. 

There are several points of interest available to tour in the city of Gondar which is known for its ecclesiastical learning. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church inhabited over 40 churches in the area. The Gondar area was the home land of the most Ethiopian Jews.

When touring the splendor of Gondar, visitors can view the ruins of the Royal Enclosure where the emperors once reigned from this enclosure. The Royal Enclosure includes Fasilides castle, Iyasu Palace, Mentewab’s Castle, as well as Fasilides Bath. Dewit’s Hall, which is a banqueting hall, can also be seen. Stables, chancelleries, churches and a library are nearby as well. 

In downtown Gondar some Italian influence can be seen. Italian occupation took place in the late 1930s. Shops and public buildings are present. Currently, the town also holds Gondar Medical University.  The city also has an airport and intercity bussing system.