Fasiladas’ Palace Still Soars with Gondar’s 17th Century Might
He was Emperor of Ethiopia for 35 years, and his influence was felt for generations, even continuing after the country’s Solomonic Dynasty fell with Haile Selassie in the 1970s. Fasiladas entrenched the Orthodox Church and strengthened as central to Ethiopian life. And Fasiladas’ Palace, which anchors the Royal Enclosure (Fasil Ghebbi) in Gondar, still offers faint whiffs of his presence, over 300 years after it was built.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fasiladas’ Palace and the surrounding imperial buildings are the main draw to Gondar, 450 miles (750 km) north of Addis Ababa. Upon buying your ticket and entering the southernmost gate, you will immediate realize why you braved the 10- to 12-hour bus ride to this city of 360,000.
Standing over 100 feet (32 meters) tall, the four domed towers are just the start of a whimsical tour of the influences behind Gondar’s architecture. Moorish, Portuguese, Indian and Axumite influences can be found everywhere, along with details that offer insight to Ethiopian religion and culture. Some faint paintings still remain, along with original building elements such as beams and rivets. From the roof is where Fasiladas addressed his subjects, and the views that are offered lend to your imagination how powerful this town once was during its heyday.
If your guesthouse can recommend a good guide, go with him. The day I went started rainy so I just went by my own, as I wanted to be alone after a long car ride. Gondar is a great place to spend a few days and explore the local countryside; starting here at Fasiladas’ Palace and the Royal Enclosure is a fantastic place to start.
Image credit: Leon Kaye