Once Upon a Time in Gondar

Our last stop in Ethiopia is Gondar, a fairy tale city. Located strategically on a hilltop, it holds a royal enclosure of the fortresses, castles, banquet and concert halls, baths, and stables of King Fasilidas (ancestor of Emperor Haile Selassie, the last Ethiopian king, and direct descendant of the Queen of Sheba – so they say) and his successors to the throne.

King Fasilidas’ castle

View from King Fasilidas’ balcony over Fasil Ghebbi (the Royal Enclosure)

Queen Mentewab’s castle

The royal enclosure was linked by fortified pathways and bridges to King Fasilida’s churches in the surrounding area. These include the lovely Debre Berhan Selassie with its ceiling of 147 winged cherubs gazing down at you, each face unique. There was also a path to Fasilidas’ Bath, the king’s own private swimming pool, now overgrown with magnificent webs of tree roots. Every January, the Bath is the site of Timkat (Epiphany), during which the pool is filled with water from the nearby river and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians jump in to celebrate Christ’s baptism.

the lovely ceiling of Debre Berhan Selassie church

Fasilidas’ Bath, the king’s private swimming pool

tree roots overgrown over Fasilidas’ Bath

Visiting the royal sites, your imagination transports you back in time to the days when kings and queens wore velvet robes and jeweled crowns and rode around on horses. And to top off our visit to Gondar, we visit the nearby Dashen Beer brewery, in celebration of our month spent in Ethiopia and in preparation for our entry into Muslim country (Sudan) the next day.

One love: a last drink at Dashen Brewery. Thank you and goodbye, Ethiopia!