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Photo Essay: Gondar in Ethiopia.

Story from: The Incidental Tourist

Some countries hold an allure and mystery that is deeply imbedded in their ancient history, rich culture and national pride, and Ethiopia is certainly one of them. Travelling with the award winning Ethiopian Airlines, I could at last live out a long standing dream and visit to get a taste of this biblical land.

More about Ethiopia

Ethiopia is an ancient land with a remarkable biodiversity that is reflected in its nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than any other country in Africa. Within its borders, you find the world’s fourth-holiest Islamic city, the oldest continuously occupied town south of the Sahara, the mediaeval rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and Gheralta, ruined palaces and temples dating back 3000 years, the magnificent 17th century castles of Gondar, and the oldest human fossils unearthed anywhere on the planet. Some bragging rights.

In addition the beautiful Simien and Bale Mountains, colourful volcanic landscapes of the Danakil Depression, and mammals and birds not found anywhere else in the world. It is little wonder that the country has become one of the most sought after tourist destination in Africa.

A federal state with a stable democracy since 1994, the capital Addis Ababa is the headquarters of the African Union, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and holds a regional office for a number of international organisations including UNESCO and the European Economic Commission. There’s a buzz on the air and the streets are a vibrant mix of old and new, with traditional vendors trading next hip artisan coffee shops and designer boutiques.

Add unique music, cultural heritage and cuisine from the 80 plus Ethiopian ethnic groups, and you’ll understand why it is a country that commands as much time as you can afford. This is after the Land of Origins.

During my visit I toured the North of the country for a week, flying in and out of the capital Addis Ababa, into ancient Gondar, Axum and Lalibela. Here’s the first of my photo sets that offer a look at these intriguing and significant remote African cities. Gondar, in Ethiopia.

About Gondar

Gondar at first sight is wide open streets, lots of tuk-tuk traffic and beautiful people going about their lives wherever you look. Known for the walled Fasil Ghebbi fortress and palace compound, once the seat of Ethiopian emperors, it dominates with the immense 17th-century castle of Emperor Fasilides, which combines Portuguese, Indian and local architectural styles.

Until the seventeenth century, Ethiopia had no capital, as the empire’s rules moved about their territory living in tents in mobile royal camps while food being supplied by farmers around the camp. The history of Gondar City begins In 1636, Emperor Fasilides ended the tradition by decreeing Gondar to be the Ethiopia’s capital and started building, the Royal Enclosure, Fasil Ghebbi, that became the palace town with a large number of different palaces and 3 churches and support buildings.

Visit The Royal Castles

The Fasil Ghebbi Royal Enclosure is the remains of a fortress-city within Gondar.  It was founded in the 17th and 18th centuries by Emperor Fasilides (Fasil) and was the home of Ethiopia’s emperors. Walking the ruins, evidence of the unique architecture shows diverse influences including Nubian styles.  Located within the 7 ha walled Royal Enclosure, the residence of Ethiopia’s government from seventeenth to the first half of the nineteenth centuries, now being part of the Gondar UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The century old ruins in the royal enclosure.

With Lesley Simpson, Di Brown and Kate Turkington.

A couple taken their wedding pictures next the castles, with the priest who married them.

The Church of Debreberehan Selassie

The Debre Birhan Selassie (Trinity and Mountain of Light) Church is famed for its beautiful examples of Ethiopian church art. Built by an emperor and preserved by an archangel, it is also among the most important churches of Ethiopia and has an interior of elaborate murals, including a ceiling of faces.

The drum used in religious ceremony.

The Royal Bath

Although the complex was used for swimming (royalty used to don inflated goat-skin life jackets for their refreshing dips), it was likely to have been constructed for religious celebrations, the likes of which still go on today. Once a year, it’s filled with water for the Timkat celebration. After the water is blessed by the bishop, the pool becomes a riot of splashing water, shouts and laughter as a crowd of hundreds jumps in. The ceremony replicates Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River and is seen as an important renewal of faith.

Listening to our guide.

Taking a contemplative moment as I imagine the very many people who have come before me, to this very spot.

For the ceremony, the pool is flooded with water from the river and all the worshippers and pilgrims come to swim in it.


Some Gondar Street Scenes

School was just out and these adorable boys with their slew eyes wanted their photo taken.


Red, orange an blue, a woman rests on the streets.

Tuk-tuk traffic outside the bank.

The Hotel

Coffee in the traditional restaurant.

Views towards Gondar from the hotel deck.

The Essential Details

  • Ethiopian Airlines flies directly from Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban
  • Internal fights are easily booked and the ‘Tourist Circuit’ that connects Addis Ababa with Gondor, Axum and Lalibela is effecient and offers hops.
  • Ethiopian Tourism at https://www.ethiopia.travel/
  • Ensure that you have some cash on you as credit card are not widely used.
  • It is important to dress modestly for sacred and religious visit, including head cover, long skirt and a shawl or scarf to cover your arms.
  • What to Pack: Camera (ask permission to take photos, some paces are sacred and many may not want to be in your holiday snaps), light, loose clothing and comfortable walking shoes, something warm for the evenings, it does get cold here. Sunscreen and a hat as you will spend quite a bit of time outside and will want to walk the streets and get a coffee at a local stall.

Watch my video of my whole week in Ethiopia.

*I was invited as a guest of Ethiopian Airlines and Ethiopian Tourism, travelling with them and hosted throughout in collaboration with Lesley Simpson Communications, travelling to Addis Ababa, Gondor, Axum and Lalibela, exploring the ancient land.

At Gondor Airport with fellow traveller Gordon Triegaardt.

The post Photo Essay: Gondar in Ethiopia. appeared first on The Incidental Tourist.

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