Gondar is one of the major cities of Ethiopia in the northern part of the country. It is one the historically significant centers as it is where the world-famous. Fasiledes castles and other main tourist attractions are found. Although the Fasiledes castles, which are identified as a world Heritage site by UNESCO, what are mostly known about Gondar, the city has a lot more to offer. Ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Christian churches and monasteries, Fasiledes’ Bath, old Byzantine church paintings and the green landscape of the city are only but a few.
Before the 17th century, rules of Ethiopia were always on the move and didn’t have a fixed capital for their country. But towards the end of the 17th century, tradition tells us a prophecy was told that the capital would be a place with a name beginning with the sound ‘g’. capitals after that include Gafat, Gouzara and Gorgora. The selection of Gondar as the capital by king fasil in 1636 was probably influenced by this prophecy but it is also widely believed that a buffalo led the king to the exact place of his future capital. The rest was history.
Gondar become the center of art, the restored Ethiopian Orthodox Church and magnificent palaces from 1636 until 1864. King fasil oversaw the construction of the medieval castles, forty four churches, bridges and other infrastructure in the city. Gondar become a widely recognized city in the world and came to be known as the Ethiopian Camelot.
Strategically located in the northern part of Ethiopia, Gondar is at the heart of the vibrant Amhara regional state. It is 180 km north of Bahidar, the regional capital, 748 km from Addis Ababa, the national capital, 250 km from Gedarif, the Sudanese border town, 300km from the historical city of Axum and some 410 km from Dessie city.
Gondar, which was found as an imperial seat of Emperor or is situated in the heart of a stunning mountainous country of North-Western Ethiopia. The city stands commanding panoramic view of the surrounding range of mountains and the low-lying mosaic of crop fields; while the imposing castles rise proudly high from the central plateau.
Being founded in 1636, the city soon bloomed and flourished in to a capital of splendor and a nucleus of multi-sided urban life that attracted people of every genius into the many diverse professions of specialization.
The principal occupation of the inhabitants was commerce. Ancient trade routes that linked the country, through the Red Sea, to the rest of the world were revitalized and the city became “the metropolis of commerce”, through which the bulk of the country’s import-export trade had to pass through and to be distributed from.
As it was a city of wealth and pomp, handicraft was further specialized in Gondar. Spinners, weavers, lanners, leather dyers, blacksmiths, builders, carpenters, horn-workers, jewelers, embroiders, saddle-maker, shield-makers, tent-makers and various workers of fashioned objects and ornaments achieved magnificence, Likewise, it also thrived to be an important cultural nexus that had an impact on the whole country.
Praises of heroes and heroism, beauty and glory of the city resonated to fill the air with music. Traditional Learning received extensive coverage. The people of Gondar were, and are still, renowned for their art of binding and decorating books. It was and important historic place of Ethiopia where manuscript illustration and painting attained grandeur. It was also a place for numbers of ceremonies and festivals, where colorful celebrations were performed at; and are still being performed.
Architecture of the city was also emerged a new and remained to this date to be a monumental pillar to the past pride. Lofty castles and other imperial buildings were erected by Emperor Fail and his successors. Then again, the emperors were not content only with castle building. They were also responsible for a number of other works of construction that include: Wereket Ghemb- office for public records; Wusheba Ghemb- sauna bath; Duket Ghemb- storage for grains; Anbessa bet- house of the lions; the famous Mewagna- the bathing pavilion and place for the annual festivals of Timket /epiphany/; Doro bet- Public sauna and other residential buildings were constructed, within the royal enclosure and at different spots of the city, along plentiful of celebrated churches and monasteries that are decorated with mural paintings.
The ensemble of these outstanding monuments, that testifies the cities success in architecture, has been appearing on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List as “Fasil Ghebbi and Gondar Monuments,” since 1979. To date, scene of these unique architectural and cultural achievements that the people of city preserved over the generations make Gondar one of the four major tourist destinations that make up the historic route of Ethiopia.