Trip Report: Gondar

Gondar Castle
Gondar Castle

By Zach DuFran

We awoke early and took a flight from Lalibela to Gondar, stopping briefly in Axum.

Gondar is known as the “Camelot of Africa” thanks to a conglomeration of medieval castles that resemble those of Europe.  You can see the castle theme throughout town.  Even the airport has the appearance of a castle.  When we got to our hotel it was about lunch time.  After a snack lunch, we headed out to explore the sights.  The castle complex was just a short walk from our hotel.  We paid admission and got a guide, Abebe, who was our most memorable of the trip.  He told us all about the history of Gondar and its role as the 3rd major capital of Ethiopia (after Axum and Lalibela).

The castles were built in succession by several different rulers in the 1700s, following the style of other castles built by Portuguese Jesuit missionaries.  The complex is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just like the churches of Lalibela.  The main castle is still intact and in very good condition.  Many of the other castles and buildings were bombed by Britain during World War II in an attempt to expel the Italian invaders.  There are some really neat features to the castles, including a system of guttering leading to an underground cistern and a steam house.  Other buildings on the grounds include stables and lion cages.

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