The Camelot of Africa
It is situated in the Southern foothill of the Semien Mountains with an average altitude of 2,200 m. above sea level. "The City of the Castles" is one of Ethiopia's most fascinating cities, founded by Emperor Fasilidas in 1636, following the establishment of the city several castles were built in the royal enclosure; each is unique in size and architecture. Gondar was Ethiopia’s capital for 250 years; it was a center for social, administrative, military, and religious activities until the rise of Emperor Tewodros II in 1855.
During the long years when it was a capital the settlement emerged as one of the largest, and most populous, cities in the realm. It was the center of fine art, music, religion as well as a great commercial centre, trading with the rich lands south of the Blue Nile, as well as with Sudan, to the West, and to the north-east, the Red sea port of Massawa. Though predominantly Christian, and the abode of the highest church dignitaries in the land, the town’s inhabitants included many rich Muslim Merchants, as well as a number of Felasha, or Ethiopian Jewish, also called Beta Israel, who were predominantly weavers, blacksmiths, and potters, as well as palace, and church, builders.
Gondar is famous by its castles and palaces, dating from the 17th century. Besides the famous palaces, in the royal compound, visitors should inspect the so-called Bathing pool of Emperor Fasilidas, which is still used for the annual Timket Festivals, or Ethiopian Epiphany celebration. Outside the royal enclosure, another important building constructed during Iyasu's reign is the church of Debre Berhan Selassie or "light of the Trinity", which stands on raised ground to the northwest of the city. Its inner walls are marvelously painted from top to bottom with innumerable scenes of Biblical lore and medieval history. Today the church still stands with its remarkable interior decorations.