Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fasil Ghebbi

Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region, are the remains of a fortress-city that was the residence of the Ethiopian emperor Fasilides and his successors.

The founder of Gondar was Emperor Fasiladas who, tiring of the pattern of migration that had characterised the lifestyle of so many of his forefathers, moved his capital here in 1636 AD. By the late 1640s he had built a great castle here, which stands today in a grassy compound surrounded by other fortresses of later construction. With its huge towers and looming battlemented walls, it seems like a piece of medieval Europe transposed to Ethiopia.

In addition to this castle, Fasiladas is said to have been responsible for the building of a number of other structures. Perhaps the oldest of these is the Enqulal Gemb, or Egg Castle, so named on account of its egg-shaped domed roof. Other buildings include the royal archive and the stable.

Beyond the confines of the city to the north-west by the Qaha River there is another fine building sometimes associated by Fasiladas - a bathing palace. The building is a two-storeyed battlemented structure situated within and on one side of a rectangular pool of water which was supplied by a canal from the nearby river. The bathing pavillion itself stands on pier arches, and contains several rooms which are reached by a stone bridge, part of which could be raised for defence.

Besides such secular buildings, Fasiladas is reputed to have erected no fewer than seven churches, as well as seven bridges.