The former capital of Ethiopia, Gondar is noteworthy for its medieval castles, Timkat celebrations and the unique church of Debre Berhane Selassie. The Emperor Fasilidas founded Gondar as his imperial capital in 1636. It was the capital and a great commercial centre from the 17th to the mid-19th century.
Today, visitors come to see the Imperial Compound, with the enchanting 'Fasalidas' castles still in good condition. At the 'Bath of King Fasilidas', during the Timkat (Epiphany) celebrations, a nearby river is diverted to fill an area the size of a small swimming pool and worshippers plunge into the water in a re-enactment of Christ's baptism in the River Jordan.
Although many of Gondar's churches were destroyed during the Mahdist invasion from Sudan in the 1880s, one particularly fine example, Debre Berhane Selassie, escaped. According to legend, a swarm of bees diverted the invaders. The walls and ceiling are covered with vivid murals: the angels' faces on the ceiling have become a common motif in Ethiopian design.
Another site of interest is the ruined palace of Queen Mentewab at Kweskwam. The Mini Fogera is worth visiting in the evening for Asmari music and national food.
Gondar is also the gateway town to the Simyen Mountains National Park.
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