17 May 2017

Ethiopia: Camelot of Africa, a Mother of Cities - Gondar

Photo: Michel Hoebink/ RNW
Ethiopian Gondar Church service.

Gondar is among world's top pilgrimage sites. Recently, it had successfully hosted the Seventh Ethiopian Cities Forum with the conveyance of more than 230 local cities and more than 15,000 participants from countrywide. Following this event, this writer enjoyed a chance to visit the hospitable land of Gondar.

Imagining about the fascinating and breezy land of Gondar, this writer left Addis early in the Spring. To arrive at Gondar, you need to cruise through the meandering landscapes to the North and cross the giant river, Abay (Blue Nile). The journey almost consumes a day and a half on road.

Located at 747 kilometres from the capital Addis and at 176 kilometres from the city of Bahir Dar, Gondar had served as the main centrer of administration during the ancient times of the empire of Gondar. Being the centrer of the highest topography of the country in the Northern tip, it has a comfy climate with humid subtropical climate.

The city was founded by Emperor Fasiledes at around 1635. Since its establishment, the city continues to be a potential trade centre of Ethiopia. A total of 13 kings were enthroned during the Gonderian period.

Gondar is well known in the world for its huge castles and an array of natural and man-made tourist attractions. Gondar served as a castle for more than 250 years, from 1636-1785 (from Emperor Fasil- Teklegiorgis). Being on strategic position, the city played a fundamental role to the triumph over different foreign invaders against Ethiopia.

Gondar and its people have shown a remarkable and colourful account of history along with Ethiopia's independence from foreign invaders in the past. Being ensconced at the top of mountains circled by two year-long flowing rivers, its residents are well known for variety of cultural music and dances. Different cultural night clubs are available inside the city, which presents cordial musical songs at night.

Azmaries (Traditional singers) welcome guests with entertaining poems and songs and invites them to revisit the city. The presence of extra number of cultural musicians adds a moon light and greater value to record unforgettable memory to one's journey. Everywhere you go in the city, you could have the opportunity to entertain at the cultural night clubs. The poems and tune of each Azmary (cultural musicians) with their cultural alcoholic drinks; like Tej, Tella and Areki, presented to you, keeping the traditional way of presentation, will make you more happier and feel dynamic in your trip.

Using this opportunity, this writer had also visited the wonderful cultural night clubs, the historical Fasil Gibi (Compound) castles spread out at the centre of the city, Debrebrehan Sillassie and other monasteries around the city to record unforgettable memory of Gondar.

A day prior the official opening of the Seventh Ethiopian Cities Forum a paper entitled 'A Mother of Cities-Gondar: From Where to Where' was presented.

Presenting a paper prepared by the University of Gondar in collaboration with other institutions and experts, Amhara National Democratic Movement Public Relations Head Solomon Mulugeta emphasized that the contribution of Gondar is indispensable regarding introducing modern education to Ethiopia. Aleka Gebrehana, notable founder of Zimamie or Akwakuam (sanctification ceremony) and with the country's folklore and sayings are among the prominent Gondarians who played a significant role to the expansion of the Ethiopian Orthodox faiths and religious preaching countrywide.

He defined Gondar saying, "A city that connected ancient Ethiopia with the present."In addition to this, being the first to introduce the mayor system of administration in the country makes the city unique.

Emperor Fasil made Gondar his administration centrer or capital and started building his castles considering the presence of different inputs. The main reasons to the establishment of the city were fulfilment of basic preconditions such as: the suitable natural resources available for the kings, fertile land for agriculture, sufficient water, woods and other construction inputs, strategic location or routes for defence as well as better market channel for trade and preferable topography and climate for healthiness.

The presenter mentioned that the city has further contributed more and laid the cornerstone for the current Ethiopia's civilization and other cities socio-economic progress.

Hosting the Seventh Ethiopian Cities Forum was a success to Gondar which became an ideal event to promote and publicize its prominence in the tourism industry.

It is common to observe many tourists year long in the city and its surroundings. The city provides ever better amenities to guests and tourists, who witness a hospitable city.

The delicious cultural food, piquant municipality embraced with glamorous ancient architectural buildings plus entertaining, peaceful and sociable people as well as comfy climate and flat terrain topography make Gondar one of the top-preferred tourist destinations in the world.

In addition to this, its mysterious ancient monasteries, like Debrbrehan Silassie with well-mannered art works and other buildings, the resident's diversified traditional and religious festivals observance and the magnificent Northern Mountains National Park, embraced with the Ethiopian endemic mammal occurrence in proximity to the city attracts anyone to be on the land of Gondar.

Tourists flow to the city is rising year after year. The golden name of Gondar, colourfully written with ancient forefathers and mothers and the historical six castles found inside Fasil compound had afforded an opportunity to the city to be registered in UNESCO world heritages list.

The six castles found inside Fasil Gibi are made by the then leaders of Gondar known as; Emperor Fasil, Empress Mintewab, Adbar Seged Dawit, Righteous Yohannes, Adiam Seged Eyasu and Emperor Bekaffa castles.

Among these castles, the castle of Fasil which is still liveable was constructed 200 years back in the 17th century.

After the downfall of the locally called Zemene Mesafint administration system, the sagacious and courageous battler Ras Kassa Hailu, springing from Quara, controls the throne of Gondar to become Emperor Tewodros II. Emperor Tewodros II established a centralized administration system and started the realization of a unified Ethiopia.

The paper presenter emphasized that the present generation inherited not only the virtue of heroism and working for unification of a motherland but also other modern thoughts and system of working inherited from Emperor Tewodros II.

"The city has finalized preparations to erect the statue of Emperor Fasil's and Tewodros II horses; Zobel and Tatek respectively at the centre of the city."

The construction of further greenery parks at every corners of the city will be undertaken bearing in mind reflecting the culture of Gondar.

The city is becoming a centrer of investors and a hub for those who plan utilizing the most from the city's untapped tourism potential.

Approached by this writer, Gondar City Mayor Tekeba Tebabel said that the forum is vital to the city to reinvigorate socio-economic ties with every cities of the country. In addition to this, the forum creates a motivation to the economic growth and benefit of residents through various ways. The city will continue striving to address public satisfaction in the provision of social services. Thus, various socio-economic infrastructural developments are on ongoing keeping in mind that more homework left ahead.

He underlined that, giving due priority towards public satisfaction in social development should be the motto of every city towards ensuring a vibrant city.

"The city administration is doing its level best regarding developing new tourist destinations, improving infrastructural developments and publicizing tourism spots. Further lodges, tourist destinations and recreations centres are expected to commence service in the near future."

Hosting the seventh national cities forum has brought to the limelight the good name of Gondar and its hospitality. Following this, the city administration also reaffirmed its meticulous commitments towards boosting the gain from the smokeless industry.

According to him, out of the 12 hotels rated in the Amhara state, a total of 7 hotels are situated in Gondar city. Thus, the city is also competitive in the service sector and will continue to rise.

To sum up, introducing and practicing clustered means of administration in Ethiopia, Gondar contributed much more to the best of the present Ethiopia and the world. It has introduced a unique architecture. Different ancient buildings of the city witnessed that it has contributed more to the construction sector in our planet. Gondar was also the leading city of Ethiopia along with introducing taxation and land lease payment system. In addition to this, the active engagements and role of women in the leadership area was the manifestations of the ancient Gondar kingdom.

Various religious festivals are key for making Gondar tourists' top visit list. Currently, several institutions and individual building works such as; University of Gondar, Emperor Tewodros Airport, hotels and lodges are portraying the ancient Gondarian construction and architectural arts style.

According to the 2017 projection made by Central Statistical Authority of Ethiopia, currently, more than 360,600 people are estimated to live in the city. And this projection makes the city the third populous city next to Addis and Dire Dawa.

The mother of cities; continues on generating more from the tourism industry. And its Diaspora are investing hugely in the sector by establishing new hotels and lodges around the city.

At the final day of the forum, participants from different parts of the country commended the preparation of Gondar for the event and witnessed its motherhood to the cities of the country.

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