Fasil Ghebbi Castle

Fasil Ghebbi Castle

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Fasil Ghebbi is a fortress-enclosure located in Gondar, Ethiopia. It served as the home of Ethiopia's emperors in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its unique architecture shows diverse influences including Nubian, Arab, and Baroque styles. The site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

This complex of buildings includes Fasilides castle, Iyasu's Palace, Dawit's Hall, a banqueting hall, stables, Mentewab's Castle, a chancellery, library and three churches: Asasame Qeddus Mikael, Elfin Giyorgis and Gemjabet Mariyam.

The origins of the Fasil Ghebbi can be found in the old tradition of the Ethiopian Emperors to travel around their possessions, living off the produce of the peasants and dwelling in tents. Reflecting this connection, this precinct was frequently referred to as a katama ("camp" or "fortified settlement"), or makkababya the same name applied to the imperial camp in the Royal Chronicle of Baeda Maryam.

Emperor Fasilides broke with this tradition of progressing through the territories, and founded the city of Gondar as his capital; its relative permanence makes the city historically important. Within the capital, he commanded the construction of an imposing edifice, the Fasil Gemb or Fasilides castle. The area around the Fasil Gemb was delineated by a wall with numerous gates. Subsequent Emperors built their own structures, many of which survive either in whole or part today. Visiting the Fasil Ghebbi in the late 1950s, Thomas Pakenham observed that "dotted among the palaces are what remains of the pavilions and kiosks of the imperial city".

The Fasil Ghebbi covers an area of about 70,000 square meters. To its south lies Adababay, the market place of Gondar, where Imperial proclamations were made, troops presented, and criminals executed; it is currently a city park. The complex is enclosed by a curtain wall which is pierced by twelve gates. These are, in counter-clockwise order: Fit Ber (also called Jan Tekle Ber) opening onto Adababay; Wember Ber ("Gate of the Judges"); Tazkaro Ber ("Gate of Funeral Commemoration") which had a bridge destroyed by fighting during the reign of Emperor Iyasu II; Azaj Tequre Ber ("Gate of Azaj Tequre"), which once was connected by a bridge to Adababay Tekle Haymanot church; Adenager Ber ("Gate of the Spinners"), which was linked by a bridge to Qeddus Rafael church in the weaver's section of Gondar; Qwali Ber ("Gate of the Queen's Attendants"), next to the modern entrance to Elfin Giyorgis church inside the Enclosure; Imbilta Ber ("Gate of the Musicians"); Elfign Ber ("Gate of the Privy Chamber") which gave access to the private apartments of the Fasil Ghebbi; Balderas Ber (Gate of the Commander of the Cavalry"); Ras Ber ("Gate of the Ras"), also known as Qwarenyoch Ber ("Gate of the Qwara people"); Ergeb Ber ("Gate of Pigeons"), also known as Kechin Ashawa Ber ("Gate of the Gifts"); Inqoye Ber ("Gate of Princess Inqoye", the mother of Empress Mentewab; and Gimjabet Mariyam Ber ("Gate of the Treasury of Mary"), which leads to the churchyard of Gimjabet Mariyam church.
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