Friday, August 21, 2015

Ethiopia Reccie : Gondar

Fasil Gebbli, The Royal Enclosure, Gondar 
Like Cairo you arrive in a place where the history goes so far back you struggle to comprehend the dates and start to realise that things where happening here on earth a long long time ago. Although sometimes with a similar pattern, progression and evolution in building and technology but also in the need to go to war with the others each of these realms always had the need to go to war. Something perhaps which has remained today, we have the Iphone and the Ghurkin in London so technology and building has been progressing since then but wars still continue between religions or simply a difference in people which if you took the religion out would still remain. Many people will blame religion but take that away and the same would still happen its just a case of being the dominant realm, group or country its what humans do. 
Gondar was made the capital of the Ethiopian Empire in 1635 by the Emperor Failides. The guide book is correct in its opening quote ‘its not what Gondar is but what Gondar was’. The temples and churches around the city are like something out of an Indiana Jones film with overgrown walls, turrets and palace’s. The main one is the Royal enclosure which homed many of the great emperors of the time. 
Tour Guide in the Royal Enclosure
I met with a great guide which I would normally pass up due to the additional cost but on nearly all those occasions I have left the site having no clue as to what I was looking at so this time I went with the lady pictured whose name was unpronounceable. She walked round the various buildings running through the timeline of history and the ins and outs of the various dynasties all the way through to the Italian occupation. The Italians had tried to play catch up with the other European powers and colonial powers having taken up positions in now Eritrea and Somaliland which where fairly invaluable areas colonially speaking but subsequently tried for Ethiopia which didn't go so well. Centring their occupation in Gondar until the British Allied forces moved in ending that occupation during the second world war. Although the Italians had tried numerous times before to colonise Ethiopia they managed it only briefly. 
This led to a rather awkward moment on our tour. At one of the buildings which was being explained to me was destroyed by the Italians. The lady emphatically started telling this was the moment the Allied forces came in, ‘who could have stopped them the Italians could not possibly have beat the British’ I realised a troubled tourist guide next to mine was telling the same story to a rather sombre looking group who where all ignoring him and looking at my guide and her side of events. They where a group of about 15 Italians on holiday. The icing on the cake was her finishing line with all looking she grabbed my arm saying ‘so we thank the British for ending that’ she flicked a dirty look to the Italians and we proceeded through them. Me fiddling with my phone trying not to look anyone in the eye until we reached the next building. There are Italian influences when you head downtown in Gondar perhaps the same with all countries affected by colonialism, you can have a break from the Injira and have a pizza and all restaurants serve pasta and spaghetti.
Fasil Gebil

The Camelot of Africa 
Fasils Baths 
There is history here whether British or Italian. The British came here on what was dubbed the ‘Abyssinian Expedition’  under the command of General Robert Nappier of the Bombay Army. They came for hostages who where of British Nationality. A sort of early Libyan embassy. But it would appear to have been a show of force when you read the account. They sent in total 13’000 British and Indian Soldiers 24’000 camp people and 40’000 animals even training elephants to be shipped from India to carry the heavy guns. Essentially Nappier made it overland across Ethiopia burned the capital to the ground at Magdala forced the emperor Tewrdos II to suicide and decimated his army and got the hostages back. Tewrdos II made the fatal mistake the Maddi in Sudan made against Kitchener. They both ordered the attack first against machine guns any chance of success against that is dead in the water. Once the job was done permission was granted for burning and looting, many treasures where taken, you can see some of those in the British Museum in London if you like. The crown of Tewrodos II was taken but returned by British King George the V ironically in a ceremony to Haile Selassie in the UK 1925. A union that would in time see Haile Selassie back in power in Ethiopia but not until the ousting of the Italians by the Allied forces in the second world war which then made way for him to return as leader. The British and the Ethiopians playing good tacticians for their own gain at the time.  
Its a spectacular place as a city perched on steep hillsides which was part of its defence as its hard to get to. The bus journey up from Addis passes Bahir Dar and Lake Tana and from there sweeps up through steep mountain roads and over mountain passes. 

We continued the tour heading to some more out the way castles and churches before heading into town for a pizza ! 

Gondarian women avoiding the rain 

The surrounding hills 

Digging around for more ruins