My Ethiopian Adventure: the Castles of Gonder


Nestled in the foothills of the Simien Mountains, Gonder, founded by King Fasiledes in 1636, remained the capital of Ethiopia for 200 years.  Its castles, built in the 1600s, housed royal family members and reflect architectural influences from Axum, Portugal, and India.

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The first and largest castle housed King Fasiledes and his family.  Because of restoration, visitors can climb to the various floors and look at the different rooms. The castle compound remains popular with locals, especially for taking family photographs, weddings, etc.

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The arched castle windows seemed perfect for framing photographs.

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On the second story, the floor, now restored, gleamed in the late morning light.

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Seven castles remain inside the compound walls.  They were built my successive rulers, descendants of King Fasiledes, several of whom came to reign after having other family members, including one father, assassinated.

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Dino, and our guide, outside the original castle, looking down into…

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Many of the original buildings, crumbled by time and weather, still stand, surrounded by lush greenery.

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In the middle of the photo background stands the Hotel Goha, where we stayed, looking down over the castles.

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If you look closely, you can see a buzzard in the top window of the castle in the foreground. These castles stand witness to the strength and endurance of stone.

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The old and the new:  two young men text on the 450 year old stairwell.

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Frequently, for centuries, Ethiopian royalty kept tame lions.  Their cages still stand.  Ethiopian lions possess different characteristics than lions farther south in Africa; they are smaller with much darker manes, often referred to as black.

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The friends with whom I travelled.  Dino grew up in Dire Dawa.

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The royal stables remain intact complete with their wooden doors.

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The banquets hall’s ceiling sagged so the Italians tried to repair it with cement.  Disastrous results–it crumbles and sags.  Originally, Ethiopia architecture/construction did not use cement.  Their methods, as evidenced by many of these castles and most definitely by the still used churches in Lalibela, stand the test of centuries.

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A very forward thinking woman, decades ahead of her time, the Empress Mentewab, built a school for women to learn various trades so they could support themselves. Like many other buildings in the castle complex this too remains under restoration.

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The perfect place to stroll, contemplate, and…

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