Gondar is the 16th century capital of Ethiopia. Gonder became the capital of Ethiopia during the reign of Emperor Faciladas (1632-1667) it’s considered th 3rd major dynasty next to Axumite and Zagwe dynasties. Ethiopia went through a long period without a fixed capital. When it was time to have one, there was no better settlement than the one at Gonder. Besides being the largest settlement in the country, it was an important administrative, commercial, religious, and cultural center. It was also noted for the skills of its many craftsmen.

Faciladas was responsible for the building of the fist castle-like palaces, the most magnificent of all the castles.

In most European cases, the single castle such as the above would have been sufficient to serve as palace for successive generations.

In Gonder however, it seems that each emperor built his own castle, ignoring those of his ancestors. Thus, additional castles were built by Faciladas's successors: His son, Yohannes, added a chancellery and library. Iyasu built his own palace, which is said to have been the most orate of all. Bakaffa and his clever wife Mentewab, built castles surrounded by a massive crenellated wall with twelve gates at the center of the town.
Iyasu II, the last of Gonderine kings, built his own palace to the west of the city.

The defensive walls found around most castles are more for display rather than actually withstanding military assault.
Gonder was a junction along important caravan routes between the north and the south, and most of the trade was in the hands of Muslim merchants.

Gonder was also home to Bete Israel, 'the House of Israel' who claimed to be Jews. They are also known as Felasha, a word that seems to refer to their separation from the rest of Ethiopian society. Falasha craftsmen provided many essential skills that Ethiopian Christians found too demeaning and were unwilling to perform, from pottery to metalwork. Most of the Felasha are now expatriated to Israel.

Gonder declined during the chaotic Era of the Princes (1706-1853 A.D.), when powerful local warlords dominated the emperors who lived among the crumbling palaces. The emperor Tewodros II, whose supremacy ended the anarchy of the Princes, sacked Gonder twice during the 1860s, removing the treasures of its churches.

The troops of the Mahdi, the Islamic reformer who founded a state in neighbouring Sudan, also burned the city during the 1880s.

Despite the fact that some of the castles were destroyed by the invading Sudanese Dervishes, while others were bombed by the British during the Ethiopian Liberation Campaign of 1941, most of the famous castles, churches and other imperial buildings have survived the rampage of time and are still regarded as one of Ethiopia's best attractions.

One of these, a charming pavilion known as the Bath of Fasiladas, is still where the whole of Gondar.



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