NATIONAL PARKS SAFARIS ETHIOPIA

HIGHLIGHTS, WHERE THEY ARE AND HOW TO VISIT THEM

Home Up Blue Nile Falls Bahir Dar Gondar


 

 

 

HISTORY GONDAR CITY

HISTORY GONDAR CITY, CAMELOT OF ETHIOPIA. HISTORICALLY, THE CITY OF GONDAR WAS THE RESIDENCE OF THE EMPERORS OF ETHIOPIA FROM THE 12th TO THE 19th CENTURY

 

History Gondar City

Gondar or Gonder located at 725km from Addis Ababa, 175km from Bahir Dar and 120km from the Simien Mountainsat an elevation of 2133 masl.

 

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.  Most famous Gondar castles of Ethiopia are located in this 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. Other monuments elsewhere in and around the city also belonging to this World Heritage Site are, Fasilides' Bath and the Qusquam Enclosure with Mentewab's Palace and St. Mary Church, the Debre Berhan Selassie Church, Kiddush Yohannes; the Sosinios Castle, also known as Maryam Ghemb, the Gorgora Church and the Palace of Guzara.

 

Why consider booking our our Ethiopia Culture & National Parks modules? Because for the same price, our tour gets you to ALL cultural places Ethiopia is so famous for, and on top of that, you get to see up to 12 National Parks/Reserves accompanied by a conservation forester. There is nothing similar on the market. As Ethiopia can be combined with other East African countries, we organize tours in modules. Destinations Overview: Historical Circuit; Danakil Depression; Eathern Route; Simien Mountains; Bale Mountains; Southern Parks Safari; Gambella; Addis Ababa BUT WAIT: if you buy your international ticket with Ethiopia Airlines, they will sell the internal flights at a price that you can't even ride the bus for. But you MUST plan it all in one package and making changes will be very costly. So let us help you plan your entire trip for an incredibly low price!

 

The 900m long battlemented wall of the royal enclosure with turrets, 12 gates and 3 bridges protected the different castles, palaces and churches as they were added by the different royalties over time. Today one finds within the premises of this curtain wall: Fasilides Castle - or Enqulal Gemb (Egg Castle, for its egg-shaped domed roofs on the towers)-, Iyasu's Castle, Dawit's Hall, Bekaffa's Banqueting Hall, stables, a sauna, Mentewab's Castle, the Library and Chancellery of Yohannes I as well as the Asasame Qeddus Mikael Church, Elfin Giyorgis church and Gemjabet Mariyam Church. Depending on the building, the architectural designs  reflect Arabian, Indian, and Baroque influences in addition to Ethiopian Axumite and Lake Tana styles and architectural traditions. With their curtain walls, huge castles with looming battlemented walls and towers, Fasil Ghebbi and Kuskuam seems like a piece of medieval Europe transplanted into Ethiopia.

 

By decree of Emperor Yohannes I, the people of Gondar were segregated by religion and status into different neighborhoods, which can still be recognized today; the Muslims had to live in Addis Alem; the Ethiopian Jewish people in Kayla Meda; in Abun Bet lived the clerics of the Ethiopian Church and in Qagn Bet, the nobility. In 1887, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad and the next year Sudanese invaders viciously attacked 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 used the Royal Enclosure, Fasil Ghebbi, as their headquarters, while developing some parts of the city for officials and colonists, which can still be recognized by the Italian design of their buildings. During the liberation by the British, several castles were bombed and severely damaged.

 

After its decline in the 19th century, the city of Gondar continued to be a commercial and transport hub for northwest Ethiopia. With a population of more than 200,000 inhabitants, Gondar is growing rapidly due to fast urbanization, like all other cities in Ethiopia. The majority of the inhabitants of Gondar are Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, 2% Muslims and 1.5% Protestants. The Ethiopian Jews have been airlifted to Israel in the early 1990s. The city is home to the University of Gondar, which includes Ethiopia's principle faculty of medicine. The city is serviced daily By Ethiopian Airlines with flights connecting to Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar and Axum.

 

Beyond the confines of the city to the north-west is another fine monument accredited to Fasiladas - a bathing palace, Fasilides Bath or Swimming Pool. The building is a two-storied battlemented building placed within a rectangular pool. Water is supplied by a canal from the nearby river. but is kept empty except during Timket, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo celebration of Epiphany. The bathing pavillion itself stands on pier arches, and contains several rooms which are reached by a stone bridge, part of which could be raised for defense.

 

Iyasu's most lasting achievement was the Church of Debra Berhan Selassie (Light of the Trinity), which stands surrounded by a high wall on raised ground to the north-west of the city and continues in regular use. A plain, church on the outside, the interior of Debra Berhan Selassie has beautiful colorful murals. The north wall is dominated by a depiction of the Trinity above the Crucifixion; the theme of the south wall is St Mary and that of the east wall the life of Jesus. The west wall shows major saints, with St George in red and gold on a prancing white horse.

 

Not long after completing this remarkable and impressive work, Iyasu went into deep depression when his favourite concubine died. He abandoned affairs of state and his son, Tekla Haimanot, declared himself Emperor and killed his father. Tekla Haimanot was in his turn murdered; his successor was forcibly removed from power and the next monarch was poisoned. The brutalities came to an end with Emperor Bakaffa, who left two fine castles, one attributed directly to him and the other to his wife, the Empress Mentewab. Bakaffa's successor, Iyasu II, is considered to have rules with the greatest authority. During his reign, work began on a whole range of new buildings outside Fasil Ghebbi, including Kuskuam, where later Mentewab would built the St. Mary Church and the Mentewab's Palace.

 

For additional reading we highly recommend: Emperors of Ethiopia as well as Palaces of Ethiopia.

 

Front view of Fasilides' Castle in Gonder, Ethiopia. A piece of Medieval Europe in Ethiopia, Fasilides' Castle is the most famous palace within the the Royal Enclosure, Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar, Ethiopia

Facade of Fasilides' Castle within the Royal Enclosure Fasil Ghebbi in Gonder.

Stairways into Fasilides' Castle at the Royal Enclosure, Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar, Ethiopia.

   
Dining room of Fasilides' Castle, has been beautifully restored and is one of the finest quarters of Fasil Ghebbi. Mentewab's Castle is the most in tact castle at the Royal Enclosure in Gonder.

Dining room of Fasilides' Castle, has been beautifully restored and is one of the finest quarters of Fasil Ghebbi.

Mentewab's Castle is the most in tact castle at the Royal Enclosure in Gonder.

   
Iyasu's Castle reportedly was more lavish than the Solomon's Palace with its inner walls decorated with ivory, Venetian mirrors, paintings of palm trees and the ceiling covered with gold-leaf and precious stones. Yohannis I's Castle is the most modest castle within the Royal Enclosure in Gonder.

Iyasu's Castle reportedly was more lavish than the Solomon's Palace with its inner walls decorated with ivory, Venetian mirrors, paintings of palm trees and the ceiling covered with gold-leaf and precious stones.

Yohannis I's Castle is the most modest palace within Gonder's Royal Enclosure.

   
Fasilides' Swimming Pool is a beautifully restored monument belonging to the Gondar UNESCO World Heritage Site. View from the foundation of the palace of Fasilides' Bath in Gonder, Ethiopia.

Fasilides' Swimming Pool is a beautifully restored monument belonging to the Gondar UNESCO World Heritage Site.

View from the foundation of the palace of Fasilides' Bath with a Banyan tree growing along the walls of the pool.

   
The Mariam Qusquam church was burnt by Sudanese invaders in 1988, and rebuilt by the Italians in the late 1930s. Banquet Hall of Mentewab's Palace at Kuskuam, Gondar, Ethiopia was burnt down by a Sudanese invasion army in 1988.

The Mariam kuskuam church was burnt by Sudanese Muslims in 1988, and rebuilt by the Italians in the late 1930s.

 

Banquet Hall of Mentewab's Palace at Kuskuam, Gondar, Ethiopia was burnt down by a Sudanese invasion army in 1988.

   
Guzara-castle, 60km south of Gondar is attributed to King Susneyos or Sarsa Dengel.

When the Mahdist Dervishes of the Sudan attacked Gondar in 1888, they burned all the churches Debre Birhan Selassie. As the legend goes, when the soldiers got to the church, a swarm of bees attacked the soldiers, who then withdrew.

Guzara-castle, 60km south of Gondar is attributed to King Susneyos or King Sarsa Dengel. It makes part of the Gondar UNESCO heritage site. 

   
The interior of the Debre Birhan Selassie Church is very famous for its murals paintings and icons. The ceiling of the Debre Berhan Selassie Church in Gondar, Ethiopia is renowned for its many icons.

The interior of the Debre Birhan Selassie Church is very famous for its murals paintings and icons.

The ceiling of the Debre Berhan Selassie Church in Gondar, Ethiopia is renowned for its many icons.

 

While the history of Gondar City is fascinating, the city now is primarily an important tourism destination for its historical buildings, but otherwise merely a provincial town.

 

A wonderful experience is to visit Qusquam or Fasilides Bath taking a tuktuk or rickshaw. Inside a Bajaj or tuktuk, three-wheeled rickshaws in Ethiopia, cheap and great fun to ride.

There are countless tuktuks, three-weeled rickshaws in Gondar. A wonderful experience is to visit Qusquam and Fasilides' Swimming Pool taking a tuktuk or bajaj as they are locally called. Even though it slows down going up the hill, it will get you there.

 
 

HISTOR CIRCUIT

MODULE

ETHIOPIA HISTORIC CIRCUIT. DISCOVER ETHIOPIAN MONUMENTS & NATIONAL PARKS with former professional to Ethiopian Park Service

Ethiopia Historic Circuit by car

9 days. Price: $1249. Hotels, meals, transportation, fees, non-alcoholic beverages, tee/coffee at meals included. Minimum 2 passengers.

Ask for group discount.

Ethiopia Historic Circuit by plane

7 days. Price: $2195. Hotels, meals, transportation, fees, non-alcoholic beverages, tee/coffee at meals, included. Prices may vary depending on fluctuating air fairs. Minimum 2 passengers.

Ask for group discount.

Day 1: ADDIS ABABA - BAHIR DAR, road distance ± 580km;

  1. Stop at the bridge across the Blue Nile Gorge, comparable in size to the Grand Canyon in the USA and supposedly the largest canyon of Africa;

  2. In the evening visit the Blue Nile falls if arrival before dark;

  3. Sleep at simple but beautifully located Ghion Hotel at the waterfront of Bahir Dar.

Day 1: ADDIS ABABA

  1. Airport pickup;

  2. Hotel in Addis Ababa;

  3. Afternoon rest, visit Crafts and Art market street or a museum of choice.

Day 2: LAKE TANA - BLUE NILE FALLS, road distance ± 35km

  1. Day excursion by boat on Lake Tana to visit several of the famous Lake Tana churches and monasteries;

  2. Visit of the Blue Nile Falls;

  3. Sleep at Ghion Hotel.

Day 2: ADDIS ABABA - BAHIR DAR by plane

  1. Visit of the Blue Nile Falls;

  2. Sleep at Ghion Hotel.

Day 3: BAHIR DAR - GONDAR, road distance ± 175km

  1. The Devil's Nose Rock, is a basaltic monolith or hoodoo, located near the village of Addis Zemen, 75km north Bahir Dar on the road to Gondar. On its top is an important roost and possibly nesting place for Ruepell's and other vultures.

  2. Check in in the hotel at Gondar after which a visit to Mentewab's Castle and/or Fasimile's Bathroom depending on available time;

  3. Hotel in Gondar.

Day 3: BAHIR DAR

  1. Day Excursion by boat on Lake Tana to visit several of the famous Lake Tana churches and monasteries;

  2. Sleep in Ghion Hotel.

Day 4: GONDAR - AXUM, road distance ± 350km

  1. Early in the morning visit the Royal Enclosure, Fasil Ghebbi;

  2. Road trip to Axum;

  3. Coffee ceremony;

  4. Hotel in Axum.

Day 4: BAHIR DAR - GONDAR by car

  1. Visit Royal Enclosure Fasil Ghebbi;

  2. Visit Mentewab's Castle, Fasimile's Bathroom and Fasil Ghebbi, the Royal Enclosre;

  3. Hotel in Gondar

Day 5: AXUM - MEKELE, road distance  ± 250km

  1. Visit the famous beautiful Stellae at Axum

  2. Visit Emperor Kaleb's Palace;

  3. Ride to Mek'ele;

  4. On the way, visit Yeha Temple;

  5. Hotel in Mek'ele.

Day 5: GONDAR - LALIBELA by plane

  1. Visit Lalibela Church Treasury Museum;

  2. Visit Lalibela Rock Hewn Churches;

  3. Hotel Tulkul in Lalibela.

Day 6: MEKELE - WUKRO - MEKELE, road distance  ± 45km

  1. Visit Rock Hewn Churches in Wukro;

  2. Visit Palace Emperor Yohannes IV;

  3. Hotel in Mek'ele.

Day 6: LALIBELA - AXUM by plane

  1. Visit Stellae;

  2. Visit Emperor Kaleb's Palace;

  3. Coffee ceremony;

  4. Hotel in Axum.

Day 7: MEKELE - LALIBELA, road distance ± 430km

  1. Leave early in the morning for Lalibela;

  2. Church treasures museum Lalibela

  3. Hotel Tulkul in Lalibela.

Day 7: AXUM - ADDIS ABABA by plane

  1. Time permitting before connecting international flight: Visit Crafts and art market, museum or Mount Entoto;

  2. Transfer airport for international flight or to hotel.

Day 8: LALIBELA - DESSIE, road distance ± 300km

  1. Visit the churches of Lalibela;

  2. Drive to Dessie;

  3. Hotel in Dessie.

 

Day 9: DESSIE - ADDIS ABABA road distance ± 340km

  1. last day of the Ethiopia Historic Circuit and return trip to Addis Ababa;

  2. Transfer to hotel.

 

Daily comfortable affordable flights Adis Ababa - Bahir Dar - Gondar with brand new Dornier Turbo Props.

Daily comfortable affordable flights Addis Ababa - Bahir Dar - Historic City of Gondar with brand new Dornier Turbo Props.

 

Ethiopia modernizes and changes more rapidly than any other country in Africa. Many features may not be there anymore in the near future. If you want to see it the way it was for thousands of years, see it now before it has changed forever! Compose your own once-in-a-lifetime Ethiopia-Africa-Adventure from our affordable modules:

Famous Ethiopia Historical Circuit

Simien Mountains trek or car visit

Danakil Depression and Erte Ale Volcano Expedition

Awash Babile Harar Safari Tour

Ethiopia Central and Southern Parks & Tribes Safari Tour

Bale Mountains National Park and Sof Omar Caves Tour

Gambella National Park Safari

Addis Ababa City Tour & Airport Transfer

All Ethiopia modules and prices together

We designed our itineraries in such a way that you can compose a 2 to 4 weeks journey from different modules that can show you the entire country or just the parts that interest you, all depending on your personal preferences, available time and budget. Email us on your interests and we can discuss a custom program with you by phone (we have phone lines from the USA and Europe) or skype. So, weather you have a great ethnic affinity, are a birdwatcher or want to go on safari, contact us and we work out a customized program that focuses on YOUR interests.

Blue Nile Falls, EthiopiaSt. George Church, LalibelaStellas, Axum, EthiopiaTukuls, Lalibela, EthiopiaElephant bull, Babile, EthiopiaEthiopian Wolf, Bale National Park

Gelada, Simien Mountains National ParkFacilides Bathroom, Gondar, EtiopiaWabia Ibex, Simien MountainsChurch, Lake Tana, EthiopiaErica trees, Bale Mountains National Park.Facilides Castle, Gondar, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa Bole International Airport is home of Ethiopian Airlines, featuring Africa's youngest fleet of the latest intercontinental jet airplanes - including 2 Dreamliners - as well as short-distance Bombardier turboprops for very comfortable, affordable and reliable in-country flights servicing all major cities of Ethiopia. The second best airline of Africa, will fly you non-stop from the USA and Europe to Addis Ababa. Take our 1-week Ethiopia Cultural Monuments Tour and than continue for your Kenya or Tanzania safari - or any other East African capital - thus completing your journey. IF YOU BUY YOUR INTERNATIONAL TICKET FROM ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES, YOU WILL GET MOST INTERNAL FLIGHTS FOR $25 - $35 PER LEG! BUT CHANGING AFTERWARDS IS EXPENSIVE, SO WORK OUT A SCHEDULE WITH US TO GET A FABULOUS DEAL FOR FLYING THROUGH THE COUNTRY IN STEAD OF SPENDING ENDLESS TIME ON THE ROAD!!!

 

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