An approx. 4 hour drive from Bahir Dar, the small town of Gonder offers the most beautiful vestige of a once great Empire which influence reached far beyond Africa’s borders… King Fasilidas made of Gonder the Capital of his Empire in the 17th Century, and did so in the most perfect place: a large valley protected by the surrounding high mountains, on two major trade routes, not far from the shores of Lake Tana, on the sources of the Nile.
Gonder offers a lot, yet this city can be fully enjoyed in a relatively short time (1 full day), for the “highlights” are very concentrated…
- Fasil Ghebbi
The “Royal Enclosure” today sits in the very center of Gonder, 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. Fasil Ghebbi is best enjoyed in the late afternoon, when tour groups are gone and the light much softer.
- Debre Berhan Selassie Church
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…
- Falasha Village
Approx. 35 kilometers north of Gonder, there is a former Falasha Village, a reminder of Ethiopia’s black Jews. Nowadays, only two of the Falashas live in the village. The old synagogue is mainly for the tourists passing by, together with the many souvenir shops selling kitsch made from clay displaying King Solomon in love with the Queen of Sheba and the omnipresent Star of David.
Most of the Falashas were airlifted to Israel during the big famine in 1985 and towards the end of the civil war in 1991. Their acceptance as Jews in the Holy Land was difficult. Especially conservative Jews went ballistic at the Falasha’s claim that they were direct descendants from Solomon…
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