I received my first-ever postcard from the continent of Africa this week, a card portraying a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Gondar, Ethiopia. It was mailed on 23 July 2016 and arrived in Phuket on 16 August, 24 days travelling. I cannot read the name of the town on the postmark but from Gondar to Phuket is a distance of 4,141 miles (6,664 kilometers). A very nice selection of stamps all but covers the message site of this card. This was a Facebook group swap with my trading partner, Solomon.
Gondar (ጎንደር in Amharic) is a city in the Semien Gondar Zone of the Amhara Region, north of Tana Lake on the Lesser Angereb River and southwest of the Simien Mountains in the northern portion of Ethiopia (ኢትዮጵያ). It previously served as the capital of both the Ethiopian Empire and the subsequent Begemder Province. The city holds the remains of several royal castles, including those in Fasil Ghebbi (the Royal Enclosure), for which Gondar has been called the “Camelot of Africa”.
Gondar was founded by Emperor Fasilides around the year 1635, and grew as an agricultural and market town. There was a superstition at the time that the capital’s name should begin with the letter ‘Gʷa’, which also contributed to Gorgora’s growth in the centuries after 1600. Tradition also states that a buffalo led the Emperor Fasilides to a pool beside the Angereb, where an “old and venerable hermit” told the Emperor he would locate his capital there. Fasilides had the pool filled in and built his castle on that same site. The emperor also built a total of seven churches; the first two, Fit Mikael and Fit Abbo, were built to end local epidemics. The five emperors who followed him also built their palaces in the town.
The modern city of Gondar is popular as a tourist destination for its many picturesque ruins in Fasil Ghebbi (the Royal Enclosure), from which the emperors once reigned. The most famous buildings in the city lie in the Royal Enclosure, which include Fasilides’ castle, Iyasu’s palace, Dawit’s Hall, a banqueting hall, stables, Empress Mentewab’s castle, a chancellery, library and three churches. Fasil Ghebbi is enclosed by a curtain wall which is pierced by twelve gates and covers an area of about 70,000 square meters. Its unique architecture shows diverse influences including Nubian styles. The site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Thanks so much, Solomon, for the wonderful card which caused me to learn a bit of history I didn’t yet know about!