Introduction to Gondar
Also known as the imperial city of Fasilides, Gondar was the first capital of the Ethiopian empire, which began in 1632 with the reign of Fasilides. The kings of Ethiopia based their power here for over two centuries.
The fortress city of Fasil Ghebbi can be described as Ethiopia’s very own Camelot and houses the former residences of Emperor Fasilides and his successors. Enclosed by a 900 meter-long wall, the castle compound is made up of ancient palaces, churches and other public buildings. Although there are distinct Arab and Eastern influences, the Baroque style brought by the Jesuit missionaries dominates the architecture.
Additional sites in and around Gondar include the Debre Birhan Selassie Church, Fasilides’ Bath, the Qusquam Enclosure with Mentewab’s Palace and St Mary Church, the Sosinios Castle, Kiddush Yohannes, the Gorgora Church and the Palace of Guzara.
Ethiopian kings were nomadic from the 13th to the 17th centuries, frequently moving their camps. In 1636 Emperor Fasilides established Fasil Ghebbi as a strategic permanent capital. What started as a camp grew into a formidable fortified compound before its eventual decline in the 18th century.
Whilst almost all of Gondar’s 44 churches were destroyed during Mahdist Sudanese dervishes in the 1880’s, the Debre Birhan Selassie Church went unscathed. Tradition tells how a giant swarm of bees emerged from the compound, sending the invaders fleeing. The city remains an important center of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
When visiting Gondar, especially in certain precincts such as the Piazza, you will notice a distinct Italian footprint. During the Italian occupation of Ethiopia (1936 to 1941), the Italian forces used Fasil Ghebbi as their headquarters. They also constructed accommodation and facilities in the city for their officials and colonists. Many of Gondar’s mediaeval castles were damaged during the British liberation, when bombs were dropped on the complex.
When in Axum
The time zone in Ethiopia is East Africa Time (EAT), GMT +3. Ethiopia has two seasons: a dry season (mid-September to May), and a rainy season (June to mid-September).
Modest dress is appropriate, especially when visiting sacred sites. Shoes must always be removed before entering churches or mosques, and women are requested to wear a head covering.
Where to say
Gondar Hills Resort
Perched on a hill overlooking the mediaeval castles of Gondar, Gondar Hills Resort offers spectacular views, sprawling gardens and a luxurious home-away-from-home whilst exploring the city and surrounding area. The hotel’s architecture is very impressive, with skillful stone masonry giving it a royal castle-like appearance. Comprising 78 stylish and comfortable rooms, a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, wellness center, curio shop and conference & banqueting facilities, Gondar Hills Resort has an impressive range of facilities and amenities.
You can anticipate great service too, with a butler at your beck and call; and when it comes to dining, with an international world-class chef at the helm, the restaurants serves a range of international dishes as well as traditional Ethiopian fare.
Built in a style that echoes the area’s rich culture and history, Mayleko Lodge has 17 rock-thatched bungalows (21 rooms) and 10 standard rooms. The lodge is very conveniently located a few minutes’ drive from the Atse Tewodros airport, in the beautiful Gondar countryside. Mayleko Lodge offers a skillful combination of modern luxury and traditional hospitality. Facilities include 24-hour room service, free Wi-Fi in the lobby, a fitness room, swimming pool, gourmet restaurant and bar. You can even hit a few shots at the driving range before settling down to some refreshments on the terrace as you look out over the mountains. Constructed using reclaimed hardwoods, sustainable and recycles materials and local labour, the Lodge is eco-friendly. The hospitality team continues to follow this theme in their day-to-day operation, minimizing the impact on the environment and improving the lives of the local community.