Fasil Ghebbi

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Things to do


Date of travel

January, 2016

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Fasil Ghebbi in Gondar, is a royal enclosure housing six castles, connecting tunnels and raised walkways. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Having bought tickets, we stood under the shade of a tree whilst Eskedar went into rather a monologue listing more dates and emperors names than we would ever remember. We could see the place was starting to fill with large groups and tried to get him moving but he wasn’t to be hurried – at one point we were asked to move by a guide who wanted his large group to sit down where we were stood.

As well as tourists, the place was also popular with locals celebrating. Many of the women wore traditional white embroidered dresses and looked very glamorous. Some of the men were equally dressed up in shiny suits and in some cases groups of men wore smart matching outfits as though they were on a stag party. Interestingly white suits and white Stetsons seem popular.

First up was the castle of Emperor Fasilidas (whose pool we’d been at the previous day for Timkat). Built in the 16th century, it was large with four round towers which were both used as look out points but also to allow Fasilidas to sit in each one and see a church from it. We walked through the main reception room – decorated with both the Star of David and both Indian and Portuguese style etchings on the walls. There were individual dining rooms the men and women and we climbed up onto a balcony for a good view of the entire site.

We continued on to Iyasu’s Castle (his grandson) and then another which were all connected by a tunnel. By this point we were starting to get a bit lost as to who was who. I could have done with a pen and paper to map out the family tree.

We also saw the Royal Archive Building, lion cages, a Jacuzzi, library and in Bakafa’s Castle, a long set of stables next to a huge, similarly long, dining room.

After visiting Mentewab’s Castle, we were hoping to use a nearby exit but it had been closed. We trekked back in the heat to our original gate which was now not letting in any more people because of overcrowding. We were pleased we’d made it even if we were left slightly confused about who was who.

Helen Jackson

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