The Castles Of Fasil Ghebbi, Ethiopia (Part 1)

Fasil Ghebbi is a large royal compound located in the heart of Gondar City in Northern Ethiopia.  Gondar is a short domestic flight from the modern capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa.  It contains several buildings built over the course of the 16th-17th Century Solomonic dynasty.  Gondar was the capital of Ethiopia during this time, having been moved from Lalibela. 

Many of the buildings are in ruin, but some of the major ones have been preserved and/or restored.  These buildings are a testament to the sophistication of the Ethiopian empire during this age.  Between this site and the rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, it’s difficult for me to decide which one I like more.  As far as richness in history is concerned, northern Ethiopia is ranked my second favorite to Giza, Egypt, among the locations in Africa I have visited.

1. Fasilides’ Castle is the largest and most impressive castle on the compound, and the original castle of emperor Fasilides himself. The castle looks like it has been transplanted from medieval Europe, and the compound is often referred to as the ‘Camelot of Africa’. The weather for my visit ranged from overcast, to occasional cloud breaks, to heavy downpours.

2: Scaffolding supports the wooden decks during restoration activities. Fasil Ghebbi is a UNESCO world heritage site, and receives funding for preservation activities.

3: The view from the doorway of Fasilides’ Castle looking out towards the Royal Archive and Royal Library.

4: A view of one of the largest rooms within Fasilides’ Castle. The ceiling was recently restored with new timber.

5: One of the only examples of the original timber ceiling beams is located within one of the small chambers.

6: If you look closely, you can see some of the original artwork that once decorated the interior of the castle. The artwork of this room is well-protected from the elements due to its position in the interior of the castle.

7: There are a few fireplaces such as this one installed throughout the castle. The city of Gondar is located at over 2000 meters in elevation, so it can get quite cold at night during the rainy season. It wasn’t clear from viewing the exterior of the building how or if the smoke escaped, though the ceilings of the castle were very high.

8: Fasilides’ Castle has an innovative water drainage and collection system. Water landing on the rooftop of the castle is directed to two channels. These channels combine together and then flow to a nearby cistern where it is collected for later use.

9: The cistern of Fasilides’ Castle where water from the nearby castle is collected. It even contains stairs, so that water can be efficiently collected when the water level is low.

10: A view of the rear of Fasilides’ Castle. On the left is a partial wall that looks to be the remains of an outbuilding. For being the oldest castle on the compound, it’s in beautiful condition. Despite the cloud cover, I was still facing the sun, so it was difficult to get as clear of a photo as I would have liked from this angle.

Thanks for dropping by! In part 2 we will continue to explore Fasil Ghebbi and its historical buildings.  I hope that you enjoyed my travel photos and commentary, and will return for more travel content in the future.

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