The moment we walked through the gates of Gondar’s grand castles, the heavens opened. The rain gave the place a much older, more dramatic and quite surreal feel. Gondar Castle is in actual fact several castles. Built in the 1600’s, each new ruler decided their’s was to be much grander than the last. This also gave way to a range of architectural styles, however all are built from similar materials.
Gondar’s castles, also known as ‘Africa’s Camelot’, are (obviously) reminiscent of European castles, and include lion cages and a full spa treatment area with cold and warm baths. Although not lived in since the 1800’s, and since pillaged and bombed, the buildings are surprisingly intact. Perhaps not so surprising then is the fact they are made from stone. Walking through the castles you can imagine the grand balls and intrigue.
Ethiopia’s answer to the sistine chapel’s artwork, is Debre Berhan Selassie Church, not far from the castles. Perhaps the most colourful Ethiopian ecclesiastical artwork I have seen to date is on the ceiling of this church. Looking up, 104 (with a few now fading) winged cherubs in very Ethiopian style, stare wide-eyed back down at you. I am not so sure I want to know what they might be thinking as they look at me with quizzical expressions. If you ever find yourself wandering the streets or castles of Gondar, you can be sure you will be able to imagine it a few hundred years ago too.