Fasil Ghebbi Gonder Reviews
Tolkiens Castle Oct 04, 2011
“Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day. This day we fight! “.
Aragorn – Lord of the Rings
It could well have been as an adolescent reading JRR Tolkien that I was first transported by imagination to foreign lands. Middle Earth, Rohan, Gondor were mapped, had mountains and forests, vulnerabilities and proud histories. As life moved on, I travelled to real countries and I forgot about the mythical lands of Norse storytelling. Imagine my surprise then to find in Africa years later that their is a real fortress city of Gonder, with a castle worthy of any medieval European king.
Ethiopia remains unknown to most and misunderstood as a place of famine and deprivation. In fact there is a vibrant and unique culture there, a synthesis of Africa and the middle East with many European influences too. I think Mr Tolkein must have visited here and took some inspiration.
The main castle was built in the 1630’s -40’s by Emperor Fasilidas in the Portuguese style. It became the custom for the Emperors son and heir to build his own edifice nearby. Hence in Gonder we have a series of castles within one compound. The castles were built at a time of defiance by the Christian Ethiopians against Islamic invasions from the east. There is a sense of purpose and grandeur in the buildings. Here we can see the Ethiopian Emperors re-establishing their heritage with thse confident and beautiful structures
Guides are available at the gate and there are not large volumes of tourists. Later in the evening you can enjoy the hilarious and distinctive traditional music of the area... and you might take a beer in the Dahsen beer gardens a few km’s outside town.
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