Rough Guide To Gondar Ethiopia

how far is from gondar

Gondar Ethiopia is an ancient city. The Solomonic Emperors of Ethiopia until the 16th century moved around their realms from place to place living in tents gathering firewoods and farmers providing food, fixed capital was usually not the primary choice except for some rulers like Zara Yakob who founded Debre Berhan (1456).

In the mid-16th-century Ethiopian rulers began to spend different seasons of the year at different places, usually returning to the same location giving town’s encampment sites leading to flourishing cities like Emfraz, Ayba, Gorgora, and Dankaz.

What is the History of Gonder (Gondar Ethiopia)?

Gondar Ethiopia was the capital of Ethiopia from 1632 to 1855, and it has the remains of castles and royal residences developed by an arrangement of heads from Fasilides (ruled 1632–67) to Iyasu II (1730–55).

The ruins of these structures stand inside a walled majestic walled in area. The foremost vital buildings are the castle of Fasilides and the royal residence of Iyasu the Incredible (ruled 1682–1706).

The engineering fashion of these stone buildings shows a prominent Portuguese impact, alongside connections to the Aksumite empire’s royal residences and the mosques of South Arabia.

Only some of the 44 churches presumed to have existed in Gondar Ethiopia within the 18th century survive, but the city is still a critical middle of the Ethiopian Standard church; its delightfully beautified 17th-century Debre Berhan Selassie Church is still in utilize.

Gondar Ethiopia endured significantly amid the period of the gracious wars (1750–1890) in Ethiopia, but, after the British victory of Sudan (1899), the town continued its exchange with the Blue Nile locale.

The city’s tenants are primarily Christians, but a few Muslims live within the locality.

Although Gondar Ethiopia may be an exchange middle for grains, oilseeds, and cattle, the economy of the encompassing zone is fundamentally one of subsistence farming.

Gondar’s craftsmen create materials, adornments, copperware, and leatherwork. The city may be a noteworthy interstate intersection and is served by an air terminal. The cutting-edge clinic has a connected restorative college, preparing staff for country clinics.

Until the seventeenth century, Ethiopia had no capital, as the empire’s rules moved approximately their region living in tents in versatile regal camps whereas nourishment being provided by ranchers around the camp.

The history of Gondar Ethiopia City starts In 1636, Head Fasilides finished the convention by declaring Gondar to be Ethiopia’s capital and begin building a walled-in area around his castle got to be the royal residence compound for half a dozen of distinctive royal residences 3 churches and back buildings built of two centuries by his successors.

Most popular Gondar Ethiopia castles of Ethiopia are found in this 7-ha walled compound, the home of Ethiopia’s government from the seventeenth to the primary half of the nineteenth century, presently being a portion of the Gondar UNESCO World Legacy Location.

Other landmarks somewhere else in and around the city too having a place to this World Legacy Location are, Fasilides’ Shower and the Qusquam Walled in an area with Mentewab’s Royal residence and St. Mary Church, the Debre Berhan Selassie Church, Kidus Yohannes; the Sosinios Castle, too known as Maryam Ghemb, the Gorgora Church and the Royal residence of Guzara.

Who Founded Gondar Ethiopia?

The city of Gondar Ethiopia founded by Emperor Fasiledes around 1635 signified the end of this medieval tradition of roving capitals.

Located with an elevation of 2133 m above sea level Gondar Ethiopia served as his seat of government for its strategic placement and fertile lands.

Gondar grew as a market and agricultural town sustained by its local and long-distance trade in the relative peace in 17th century northern and central parts of Ethiopia, where the red sea and caravans from Sudan converged and dispersed from Gondar Ethiopia.

The Decline of Gondar Ethiopia

Gondar stayed the capital of Ethiopia from 1632 – 1855 and has seen a series of Emperors from Fasilides (reigned 1632 – 67) to Iyasu II (1730 – 55) and still has the remains of castles and palaces.

These structures although most of them in ruins due to attacks by Emperor Tewodros II and Sudanese invasion they still stand within the walled Imperial/Royal enclosure.

Most importantly the castle of Fasilides and palace of Iyasu the great and a few churches as well throughout Gondar city.

Gondar Ethiopia declined enormously insignificance. Since Sovereign Tewodros II moved the location of government to Debre Tabor. Finally, it was in this way plundered within the 1880s by the Sudanese Dervishes.

By the early nineteenth century, the city was an unimportant shadow of its previous self. More as of late, its appearance was not supported by the truths that a few noteworthy buildings were harmed by British bombs amid Ethiopian’s freedom campaign of 1941, most of the buildings have survived.

how far is from gondar

What Were the Quarters in Gondar Ethiopia?

Traditionally Gondar Ethiopia was divided into several neighborhoods and quarters majorly being Addis Alem, where Muslim being driven out of Gondar Ethiopia city settled in during the 17th century.

Kayla Meda, a quarter where the beta Isreal people lived. Abun bet, centered for the residence of the Abuna, nominal head of the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Qagn Bet – house for the nobility.

Italian Occupation and Modern Gondar Ethiopia

Italian troops occupied Gondar on 1 April 1936, and within two years 2,000 Europeans lived in the city.

Most of Gondar’s 14,000 Ethiopian inhabitants lived south of the main castle complex—called the Fasil Ghebbi—where the ridge slopes gently down toward the major market at the southern edge of town.

The Italians concentrated their building activity north of the Fasil Ghebbi on two adjacent level areas but separated by a twenty-meter change in elevation.

The lower area served as a commercial district, with a wide, tree-lined street running north from the castles, past the cinema to the prominently sited post office.

The higher area immediately to the east comprised the governmental district, centered on two monumental buildings for the military authorities, whose towers commanded distant views and marked the center of power in the new Gondar.

The Italians exploited the dramatic change in elevation between the two areas to establish a clear hierarchy between the quotidian functions of the commercial district and the ceremonial functions of the governmental district.

Downtown Gondar, the main piazza has commercial features like shops, a cinema, and other public buildings in a simplified Italian modernist style.

Gondar served as the capital of Amhara, one of the six provinces created by the Ministry of Italian Africa to administer Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia.

The city, sited at a key crossroads in the northern Ethiopian highlands, functioned as the administrative, legal, military, transportation, communications, and distribution center for northern Ethiopia under Italian rule.

As the provincial capital, the city included offices and residences for the governorship’s civilian administration and courts, as well as a major military installation.

Gondar hosted facilities for the Fascist National Party (PNF) and a range of state and party social service organizations.

Major Banks and insurance companies-built branches in the city, and numerous private companies—among them such transport-related firms as FIAT, AGIP, and Pirelli—built offices, garages, workshops, and depots.

Gondar and the cities built by the Italians in East Africa need to be understood in the larger context of Italian city building throughout the fascist era.

Contemporary propaganda presented the new cities in the homeland—such as E’42, outside Rome—alongside their monumental counterparts throughout the empire, including Tripoli, Asmara, and, especially, Addis Ababa.

As in the new urban centers constructed in Italy, such as the pontine marsh cities and Guidonia, the spatial relationships between major buildings and public spaces in colonial cities were designed to foster mass identity and the veneration of Mussolini.

Earlier Italian experiences with urban planning in Libya informed the design of Gondar and other Ethiopian cities, which in turn influenced the design of Tirana and other cities in Albania, Istria, and the Dodecanese Islands.

Gondar, being one of the most adorable historical cities in Ethiopia assigned various functional meanings to social spaces. The Gondarian principle of settlement, social arrangement, and communal activities are tied to its legendary status.

The current activities of the dwellers are influenced by the glorious socio-cultural traditions of the past. Despite such grandiose achievements, the newly emerging urban developments, urban renewal, as well as the gentrification projects are enormously affecting the development of the city.

The present renewal and development meant to solve the scarcity of resources and urban unemployment. However, the “renewal” did not respond to any of the vital questions. Rather, it exacerbated the improper handling of the culture, tradition, and history of the city of Gondar.

Moreover, the surviving material and non-material heritage, as well as the cultures that have been contributing factors for the wellbeing of the society, are eroded from time to time in the name of development.

In spite of the fact that cultural change and social development are highly needed, they should never come at the expense of common social and cultural goods.

No urban phenomenon should be accompanied by degrading the ever-existing social capital. Also, urban development must not be spearheaded by sprawling.

Urban renewal must not be solely measured by economic developments that often come with the unfair distribution. Such development may erode historical legacies, propagate slums, undermine social values – on which the Gondarians’ pride.

Thus, the Gondarians still believe that their revered city would become the sacred center of spiritual and social wealth, requiring a constant nurturing.

gondar castle

Gondar Castle

Fasil Ghebbi covers a region of almost 70,000 square meters. To its south lies Adababay, the showcase put of Gondar, where majestic decrees were made, troops displayed, and offenders executed; it is as of now a city park. 

Dawit’s Corridor is within the northern portion of the walled-in area, adjoining to the building credited to Bakaffa and the church of Asasame Qeddus Mikael.

Regularly alluded to as the “House of Melody”, Munro-Hay notes that this may be due to a misreading of the Amharic zofan wagered (“House of the Divan” or “House of the Position of authority”) as zafan wagered (“House of Melody”).

Fasil Ghebbi is encased by a shade divider which is penetrated by twelve doors. These are, in counter-clockwise arrange Fit Ber (too called Jan Tekle Ber) opening onto Adababay; Wenber Ber (Door of the Judges); Tazkaro Ber (Entryway of Burial service Commemoration), which had a bridge annihilated by battling amid the rule of Iyasu II; Azaj Tequre Ber (Entryway of Azaj Tequre), which once was associated by a bridge to Adababay Tekle Haymanot church; Adenager Ber (Entryway of the Spinners), which was connected by a bridge to Qeddus Rafael church within the weaver’s area of Gondar.

Qwali Ber (Door of the Queen’s Orderlies), following to the cutting edge entrance to Elfin Giyorgis church interior the Walled in the area; Imbilta Ber (Door of the Artists); Elfign Ber (Entryway of the Privy Chamber), which gave get to the private lofts of the Fasil Ghebbi; Balderas Ber (Entryway of the Commander of the Cavalry); Ras Ber (Door of the Ras), moreover known as Qwarenyoch Ber (Door of the Qwara individuals); Ergeb Ber (Entryway of Pigeons), moreover known as Kechin Ashawa Ber (Door of the Endowments); Inqoye Ber (Entryway of Princess Inqoye, the mother of Sovereign Mentewab; and Gimjabet Mariyam Ber (Entryway of the Treasury of Mary), which leads to the churchyard of Gimjabet Mariyam church.

The serial property comprises of eight components. Inside the Fasil Ghebbi royal residence compound are: The Castle of Sovereign Fasilidas, the Castle of Head Iyasu, the Library of Tzadic Yohannes; the Chancellery of Tzadic Yohannes; the Castle of Head David, the Royal residence of Mentuab and Banqueting Lobby of the Sovereign Bekaffa. The rest seven heritages are found in Gondar and around the city: the Debre Berhan Selassie (Religious community and church); the Shower of Fasilidas; Kiddush Yohannes; Qusquam (Cloister and Church); Warm Range; the Sosinios (moreover known as Maryam Ghemb); the Gorgora (Cloister and Church) and the Royal residence of Guzara.

Between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries, Ethiopian rulers moved their regal camps as often as possible. Ruler Fasil (Fasilidas) settled in Gondar and set up it as a changeless capital in 1636. Sometime recently its decay within the late eighteenth century, the regal court had created from a camp into an invigorated compound called Fasil Ghebbi

The 900m long battlemented divider of the compound of the royal residence with turrets, 12 doors, and 3 bridges ensured the diverse castles, royal residences, and churches as they were included by the diverse sovereignties over time. Nowadays one finds inside the premises of this window ornament divider: Fasilides Castle – or Enqulal Gemb (Egg Castle, for its egg-shaped domed rooftops on the towers)-, Iyasu’s Castle, Dawit’s Corridor, Bekaffa’s Banqueting Corridor, stables, a sauna, Mentewab’s Castle, the Library and Chancellery of Yohannes I as well as the Asasame Qeddus Mikael Church, Elfign Giyorgis church and Gemjabet Mariyam Church.

Depending on the building, the building plans reflect Middle Eastern, Indian, and Ornate impacts in expansion to Ethiopian Axumite and Lake Tana styles and structural conventions. With their shade dividers, colossal castles with approaching battlemented dividers and towers, Fasil Ghebbi and Kuskuam appear like a bit of medieval Europe transplanted into Ethiopia.

By declare of Sovereign Yohannes I, the individuals of Gondar were isolated by religion and status into diverse neighborhoods, which can still be recognized nowadays; the Muslim religion followers had to live out of Gondar; the Ethiopian Jewish individuals in Kayla Meda; in Abun Wagered lived the clerics of the Ethiopian Church and in Qagn Wagered, the respectability.

In 1887, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad and the following year Sudanese intruders violently assaulted Gondar, setting fire to all the city’s churches but one, Debre Berhan Selassie Church. During the occupation by Italy from 1936 – 1943, the Italians utilized the Illustrious Walled in area, Fasil Ghebbi, as their central station, whereas creating a few parts of the city for authorities and colonists, which can still be recognized by the Italian plan of their buildings. Amid the freedom by the British, a few castles were bombarded and extremely damaged.

After its decrease within the 19th century, the city of Gondar proceeded to be a commercial and transport center for northwest Ethiopia. With a populace of more than 200,000 occupants, Gondar is developing quickly due to quick urbanization, like all other cities in Ethiopia. The lion’s share of the tenants of Gondar is Ethiopian Conventional Christians, 2% Muslims and 1.5% Protestants. The Ethiopian Jews have been taken to Israel at the very beginning of the 1990s. The city is domestic to the College of Gondar, which incorporates Ethiopia’s rule workforce of pharmaceutical. The city is overhauled every day By Ethiopian Aircraft with flights interfacing with Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, and Axum.

gondar ethiopia
“royal.grounds.entertainment.hall.5” by moi@warrior ant press is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 

Past the limits of the city toward the north-west is another fine landmark authorize to Fasiladas – a washing royal residence, Fasiladas Bath, or Swimming Pool. The structure is a two-celebrated battlemented structure set inside a rectangular pool. Water is provided from a close stream. in any case, it is kept void aside from during Timket, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo festivity of Epiphany. The washing pavilion itself remains on wharf curves and contains a few rooms which are come to by a stone scaffold, and some are raised for a guard.

Iyasu’s most enduring accomplishment was the Church of Debra Berhan Selassie (Light of the Trinity), which stands encompassed by a high divider on the raised ground toward the north-west of the city and proceeds in customary use. A plain, church on the exterior, the insides of Debra Berhan Selassie have lovely colorful wall paintings. The north divider is overwhelmed by a delineation of the Trinity over the Torturous killing; the topic of the south divider is St Mary which of the east divider the life of Jesus. The west divider appears major holy people, with St George in ruddy and gold on a skipping white horse.

 Not long after completing this surprising and amazing work, Iyasu went into profound discouragement when his top pick concubine passed on. He deserted issues of state and his child, Tekla Haimanot, pronounced himself Head and murdered his father. Tekla Haimanot was in his turn killed; his successor was persuasively evacuated from control and the following ruler was harmed.

The brutalities came to a conclusion with Sovereign Bakaffa, who cleared out two fine castles, one credited straightforwardly to him and the other to his spouse, the Sovereign Mentewab. Bakaffa’s successor, Iyasu II, is considered to have rules with the most noteworthy specialist. Amid his rule, work started on an entire run of unused building’s exterior Fasil Ghebbi, counting Kuskuam, where afterward Mentewab would build the St. Mary Church and the Mentewab’s Royal residence

The Gonderian Architecture

Gondar, formerly being a predominantly noted center for ecclesial learning of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and being known for having 44 churches than any other settlement in Ethiopia.

The city of Gondar following its decline in the 19th century still continued as a commercial and transport hub for northwestern Ethiopia with a population exceeding 200,000 inhabitants the city is showing rapid growth due to fast urbanization. The architectural style of Gondar city has around 2 distinct characters.

The first being stone buildings showing the prominent Portuguese and Indian character, along with links to Aksumite empires palaces and mosques of South Arabia and also present-day Yemen. These characters are seen mostly in the Royal enclosure were the castles of Fasil and Iyasu’s Palace, Dawit’s hall, the chancellery, library, and 3 churches.

And outside the royal enclosure, there is Fasilides bath another fine monument sits to the northwest of the city accredited to Fasiledes as a bathing palace, bath, and swimming pool. The two-storied building placed within a rectangular pool stands on pier arches with multiple rooms that are accessed by a stone bridge that can be raised for defense purposes.

The 18th century Ras Michael Sehuls palace also known as Ras Ghemb is Gondar city’s remaining example of historically significant architecture. Currently, the palace is under the department of culture, tourism, and information of northern Gondar. The palace is being converted into a cultural center that will include ancient book stores, manuscripts, church relics, and more modern historical items.

Ras Ghemb was the stronghold of Ras Sehul Mikael. By the time Italians adapted it as a vice-regal residence, being extensively modified and renovated mostly on the inside without giving much consideration and regard to the traditions of Gondar and the traditional architectural style. After the Italian occupation, the palace Functioned as a holiday getaway residence for Emperor Haile Selassie and also as an interrogation center under the Derg regime.

Debrebrehan Selassie church the most prominent achievement during Iyasu’s reign meaning “light of the trinity” presents itself appealing with its stone walls, arched doors, and two-tiered thatch roof on the outside and its inner sanctuary of Debre Berhan Selassie with the colorful frescos that really shine. The ceiling with rows of winged cherubs representing a sense of holiness and omnipresence of God. It had 135 cherubs 13 of which were damaged by water and are no longer present.

The church is surrounded by a large stone wall that has 12 rounded towers representing the 12 apostles and the larger 13th tower serves as the main gate and symbolizes Christ and shaped to resemble the Lion of Judah.

The second style in Gondar city lies around the downtown part of Gondar and shows the influence of the Italian occupation colonial policy stating cities built-in Italian occupied East Africa further demonstrate the extent to which modern urban design could participate in the coercive project of constructing “colonial identities”, among both Italian settlers and African colonial subjects.

Gondar Expanded dramatically after the conquest of Ethiopia in the late 1930s for it served as the colonial administrative center for Italian East Africa. Altogether Gondar offers a valuable example of the form and development of cities throughout Ethiopia and other former Italian colonies in Africa.

Building materials for Gonderian design are limited. Basically, three materials were recognized: stone, chikka, and fortified concrete. Two combination sorts ought to be included: timber and press sheet and concrete piece structures. Brickwork structures include 29% whereas chikka 52%.

Conventional buildings for the nobbles such as circular houses are of brickwork structures and them final much way better than standard chikka, moo quality timber, and mud structures, which are not all tough. Strengthened concrete was presented by the Italians in the event of the development of open offices and commercial centers within the 1930s. In spite of the fact that it was broadly utilized from the 1950s in Ethiopia, as it were a couple of such buildings were found in this zone, such as two-story ‘bunna bet’

gondar ethiopia outside

Post-Italian buildings were basically laid out taking after the framework design. It ought to be famous that the idea of the arrangement showed up in such a way that these days made houses were constrained to be lined on the border of lanes and bundles. Until the mid-1960s the building movement was so frail that a restricted number of buildings possessed this region.

However, since the usage of the modern ace arranges by the Haile Selassie’s government in 1967, the region has been changed to be more commercial on the roadside additionally gotten to be denser behind these commercial buildings. Roadside shops have been developed by utilizing strong structures basically of stone and in remarkable cases by fortified concrete, in spite of the fact that most of the lodging units interior the piece was built by chikka The latter is within the frame of push houses with a single room for one household (5m2 in normal).

The townscape of this central zone is an exceptional level. Subsequently, the number of two-story buildings is exceptionally constrained. As it were nine buildings have two floors and the majority are situated within the northern piece. They include as it were thirteen lodging units that amount to 6.4% of the overall number of lodging units within the inquire about the region. Note that half of these two-story buildings are “bunnabet”, an Ethiopian fashion inn. The central area must have pulled in speculation by such commerce proprietors.

What is the Demographic of today’s Gondar Ethiopia?

Based on the 2007 national census conducted by the Central Factual Office of Ethiopia (CSA), Gondar had an add up to the populace of 207,044, of whom 98,120 were men and 108,924 ladies. The lion’s share of the tenants practiced Ethiopian Conventional Christianity, with 84.2% detailing that as their religion, whereas 11.8% of the populace said they were Muslim and 1.1% were Protestant.

The 1994 national census detailed an add up to populace of 112,249 in 21,695 families, of whom 51,366 were men and 60,883 ladies. The three biggest ethnic bunches detailed in Gondar Zuria were the Amhara (88.91%), the Tigrayan (6.74%), and the Qemant (2.37%); all other ethnic bunches made up 1.98% of the populace.

94.57% use Amharic with dialect and 4.67% used Tigrinya; the remaining 0.76% communicate all other essential dialects detailed.

83.31% followed to Ethiopian Standard Christianity, and 15.83% are Muslim.

Gondar Ethiopia was once the domestic of a huge populace of Ethiopian Jews, most of whom moved to Israel within the late 20th and early 21st century, counting the current Israeli Envoy to Ethiopia, Belaynesh Zevadia.

Is Gondar safe?


Like most cities in Ethiopia, Gondar is safe for visitors. The Gondar men are known for being caring and compromising for some visitors. However, you need to be careful about how you came across other, you should be fine. Gondar is a tourist city, and many visitors all around the globe are in the city at any given time.

Stick in a group, especially late at night. Don’t carry valuables on the streets. And respect cultures. Then, Gondar is safe.

cover: “Ethiopia, Gondar” by Achilli Family | Journeys is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

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