During the 17th century, Emperor Fasiledas and his dynasty constructed some of the most remarkable structures in Africa, and Gondar became an imperial walled capital with a number of towers and castles. Today, they continue to crown Gondar in a 70,000 sqm enclosure, like priceless diadems, reminders of its past power and grandeur.
The numerous castles, built between 1640 and 1769 by various emperors, are unlike any in Africa and display the rich architectural Axumite tradition and the influence of Arabia. Their historic value has been recognized in that the Royal Enclosure is included on the World Heritage list.
A wealth of other castles, churches and historical buildings are scattered around Gondar. Probably the most charming of these is the bathing pool of Emperor Fasiledas which is used for the colourful annual Timket (Ethiopian Epiphany) celebrations in January. Nearby, is a small domed mausoleum said to have been built for the Emperor?s favourite horse, and ruins of the palace for the redoubtable and beautiful 18th century Empress Mentewab at Kuskuam, which offers visitors an extraordinarily impressive sight and a wonderful view of the town.
Within easy reach is the rectangular and stunningly decorated Debre Birhan Selassie Church - one of the most amazing displays of religious art in Ethiopia. Eighty wide-eyed angels look down upon mesmerized visitors and other frescoes depict Christian scenes. Then, just three kilometres from Gondar is, Woleka, the former Felasha (Ethiopian Jewish) village with its highly decorated pottery, which, with all the other sights, offers the visitor an inspiring experience.
As an excursion from Gondar, or even en route to Axum, one can combine fascinating historic beauty with natural rugged scenes by visiting either Kosoye, with its panoramic views of the Simien Mountains or actually heading into the mountains themselves and gaining the comparison to the Gondarine architecture.