Gondar is a city and woreda in the Central Gondar Zone of the Amhara National Regional State, North
of Lake Tana on the Lesser Angereb River and Southwest of the Simien Mountains. In 2021, Gondar is
predicted to have a population of 443,156.
It was the capital of the old Ethiopian Empire and is still the regional center today. Since 1636, Emperor
Fasiledes (r. 1632-67) has been building a palace in the Gondar Valley. The fort was ideally located
along trade routes and had quick access to timber, water, and food from the lake’s north bank farming
regions. Various things can cause Gondar to expand. Yohannis (r.1667-82), Facildes’ successor who was
crowned and died in the city, confirmed this name. Despite its growing political importance, early
Gondar was not a very beautiful city. The splendour of the imperial palace enchanted Charles-Jacques
Poncet, a French chemist living in the capital around 1700, but not the city’s mud houses. As the city
grew in size, each emperor added more palaces, churches, and monuments. When forces loyal to Iyasu II
(r. 1730-55) destroyed a rebel group in the city in 1732, it provided justification for the emperor’s
building and construction. The weekly markets south of the royal grounds aided the city’s expansion.
Growth also has a demographic impact. Muslim Islambet and Islamj emerged as Church offshoots. The
Jewish community in Falasha is involved in blacksmithing and pottery, and Echege Bet and Abune Bet
are Ethiopian Church centers.
While Facildes, Yohannes, and their predecessors were powerful rulers, the monarchs who followed
them eventually weakened and were confined to Gondar. The fall was complete during the reign of the
boy-king Iyoas (reigned 1755-69), and future kings of Gondar would rule under new heads (notably
Ras), akin to British princes. Gondar is usually the site of confrontation between heads of state
attempting to exert power over the reigning emperor.
An English traveller described the great palaces of Gondar as rotten in 1814, and in 1864 and 1866,
RasTewodros, who was declared emperor, expelled the city and relocated the capital to Magdala. Today,
Gondar remains one of modern Ethiopia’s major cities, with a population of about 200,000.
Simien Mountains: Simen spelled the highlands northeast of Gondar in northern Ethiopia as Semen or
Namen. RasDejen, Ethiopia’s highest peak, rises 14,872 feet (4,533 metres) in the region. The region
contains the Smien Mountains National Park, which is home to some of the world’s most endangered
species, including the Walia ibex. The park is located 100 kilometres from Gondar and is a UNESCO
World Heritage site.
Fasil Castel: The Ethiopian Emperor Fasiledes and his descendants lived in the stronghold city of
FasilGebbi during the 16th and 17th centuries. The city is enclosed by a 900-meter-long wall and
contains palaces, churches, monasteries, and one-of-a-kind public and private buildings with Hindu and
Arab elements that were later changed by the Baroque style introduced by Jesuit missionaries.