Modern day Gondar we found a city of extremes – modern urbanites lives in stark contrast with those just surviving in heart breaking poverty. Every evening, the bar of our hotel was packed with cheerful locals eating well and guzzling down beer after beer. Outside, old men hid from the chilly nights under pieces of corrugated iron.
Most likely Gondar’s glorious past was equally unjust, when King Fasilidas made it capital of his empire in the 17th century. He did so in the most perfect place: a large valley protected by the surrounding high mountains, on two major trade routes.
Fasil Ghebbi, the “Royal Enclosure”, today sits in the very center of Gondar, a large walled compound that harbors six palaces. The most beautiful is the one of Fasilidas. The other five were built by his direct successors to show their power and leave their own footprint in history.
Debre Berhan Selassie Church, with its amazing wall paintings, was particular inspiring. This beauty came alive in a wonderful religious ceremony with lots of chanting and praying. For the first time we watched a strenuous exercise. Young women bend forward, put their hands on the floor, kneel down, forehead goes on the floor, then they stand up. Really fast like machines! Religions seem to be most innovative when it comes to require proof of submission from their followers…