When my friend told me we were going to visit the Castles of Gondar, I thought he was kidding. It sounded too much like a movie title, plus castles in Ethiopia? Seriously. Then I looked it up and sure enough, there are a lot of them, built by a series of kings, fathers and sons, and a queen. Some remain in reasonably good repair at least on the outside. Others crumble in the rain and humidity. All are in a sort of compound arranged together.
This castle is near the entrance and in rather good condition. Restoration work is most complete here so it is safe to walk to the second floor.
The view from a second floor window. Because of the altitude and moisture–contrary to popular opinion, a large portion of Ethiopia is mountainous and green–especially during the rainy season, upkeep is not easy.
The same castle, looking out the door onto the balcony which can be seen in the first photo. The floors have been restored.
Looking in the opposite direction from the first castle, several castles and the ruins of others show the layout of the compound. Our hotel was near the top of the mountain in the distance. Many locals roamed around when we were here. It is popular to take wedding, anniversary, etc. photos here.
This photo shows the first castle–in the background–from another side.
The style of some of the castles, like this one, is more intricate than others.
This building housed the royal lions. Tradition for keeping lions goes back several centuries. The last Ethiopia emperor, Hailie Selassie, was often referred to as the Lion of Judah, the latter referring to the Ethiopia tradition of believing that they are descendants of Solomon and Sheba. Ethiopian lions are a different sub-species than other African lions, smaller with darker, sometimes black, manes and tails.
These castles provide a perfect venue for photography. You can see my friends sitting on the stone wall.
The royal stables obviously housed many horses.
The royal dining hall currently receiving restoration work.
The path to the exit.
The news the last couple of weeks from Gondar has not been pleasant. Many people have been protesting the government which they view as tyrannical and favoring one ethnic group over the others. More than ten protesters were killed during the first protest. Just this past week thousands came out in another peaceful protest.
Gondar (sometimes spelled Gonder) is a business, commercial, and education center. It is a main route for commerce between Ethiopia and Sudan. For more detailed information about Gondar, the castles, and the surrounding area, see my blog posts from Aug-Sept. 2014.