The Castles of Gondar and other monuments (Gondar)
Gondar is famous for its many medieval castles and the design and decoration of its churches. The earliest of the castles was created by Fasilidas himself and is still in such an excellent state of repair that it is possible to climb its stats all the way to the roof, which commands a breathtaking view over much of the city.
748 kilometres from Addis Ababa is the graceful city of Gondar, founded by Emperor Fasilidas in 1635. The city was Ethiopia's capital until the reign of the would-be reforming Emperor Tewodros II, also known as Theodore. During its long years as a capital city, the settlement emerged as one of the largest and most popular cities in the realm. It was a great centre of commerce, trading with the rich lands south of the Blue Nile, as well as with Sudan to the west, and the Red Sea port of Massawa to the north-east.
Besides the famous palaces, visitors can inspect the so-called "Bathing Palace of Emperor Fasilidas" which is used for the annual Timket or Epiphany celebrations, and the abbey of the redoubtable eighteenth century Empress Menteweb at Qwesquam, in the mountains just outside Gondar.
The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela (North Wollo Zone)
Lalibela, 642 kilometres from Addis Ababa, is internationally-renowned for its rock-hewn churches which are sometimes called the "Eighth Wonder of the World". Physically prised from the rock in which they stand, these monolithic churches were originally thought to have been built in the 12th century during the reign of King Lalibela, but some have been dated back to the 10th century. There are eleven churches, assembled in three groupings:
The Northern Group: Bete Medhane Alem, home to the Lalibela Cross and believed to be the largest monolithic church in the world. It is linked to Bete Maryam (possibly the oldest of the churches), Bete Golgotha (known for its arts and said to contain the tomb of King Lalibela), the Selassie Chapel and the Tomb of Adam.
The Western Group: Bete Giyorgis, said to be the most finely executed and best preserved church.
The Eastern Group: Bete Amanuel , Bete Merkorios, Bete Abba Libanos and Bete Gabriel-Rufael.
Further afield lie the monastery of Ashetan Maryam and Yimrehane Kristos church.
The Simien Mountain National Park (North Gondar Zone)
Ethiopia’s uniqueness makes it a fascinating destination for every kind of traveller, but in particular for the traveller who wants that bit more. Ethiopia’s historic sites are extremely wide-ranging and possibly the most extensive in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. Experts claim that such sites are only a fraction of what Ethiopia has to offer given that a further 95% remain to be discovered and excavated.
Seven of Ethiopia's cultural heritage sights are includedin the world cultural heritage list:
The Simien mountain is one of the major highlands of Africa, rising to the highest point in Ethiopia, Ras Dejen (4620m), which is the fourth highest peak in the continent. Although Simien is in Africa and not too far from the equator, snow and ice appear on the highest points and night temperatures often fall below zero.
The national park has three general botanical regions. The higher lands are mountain grasslands with fescue grasses as well as heathers, splendid Red Hot Pokers and Giant Lobelia. The park was created primarily to protect the Walia Ibex, and over 1000 are said to live in the park. Also in the park are families of the unique Gelada Baboon with its scarlet ‘bleeding heart on its chest,’ and the rare Simien fox. The Simien fox, although named after the mountains is rarely seen by the visitor. Over 50 species of birds have been reported in the Simien mountains.
Access to the park is from Debark, 101km from Gonder, where riding and pack animals may be hired. This should be arranged in advance through your local tour operator or the Office of the Wildlife Conservation Department.
Surma is the official Ethiopian umbrella term for three ethnic groups in South Ethiopia: the Suri people, the Mursi people and the Mekan people. Very often the name 'Surma' is used for the Suri people as well, but this is wrong, a Suri would never call himself a 'Surma'. The Suri people are semi-nomadic cattle herders and live on the west side of the Omo River in the southwestern part of Ethiopia. This area is still much undeveloped, only an unpaved road leads to the heart of the Suri settlements: Kibish.
Suri people have a cattle-centered culture; the wealth of a family is measured by the number of animals owned. Usually the animals are not eaten unless a big ceremony takes place. The animals are used for milk and blood.
The Suri tribe is used to conflict, like for example the constant conflict with the neighbouring Nyangatom tribe over land and cattle. The Suri culture demands that the men are trained as warriors as well as cattle herders. Stick-fighting events like the 'Zegine' (or 'Saginay', also commonly known as Donga, like the Mursi call the stick fights) take place to train boys and young men and also to allow them to meet women.
However, in the past a new 'gun culture' emerged among the Suri men. The Kalashnikovs are omnipresent and threaten to destabilise their society. Many ceremonies like weddings or funeral celebrations look more like a military ceremony these days with a lot of Kalashnikovs and many gunshots. Even the stick-fighting events are accompanied with gunshots, sometimes deadly in case too much local beer was involved. As a result the Ethiopian government banned the stick fights, which now have to take place secretly and without presence of tourists.
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Africa’s highest city at 2400m above sea level; Addis Ababa is the commercial and political center of Ethiopia and was founded in late 19th c (1887) during the reign of Emperor Menelik II.
Addis Ababa literally means ‘New Flower’ in English and is the home of about 3.5 million people. The city lies in the center of the country and is known as the diplomatic capital of Africa. It is the headquarters of the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
The city has a flourishing cultural life and there are daily opportunities to sample Ethiopian Music, song and dance. The National Museum which exhibits Lucy is the world’s oldest human hominid which ages 3.5 million years. Ethnological museum which houses an interesting over view of Ethiopia crafts, culture and art; Merkato-the largest open air market in Africa; Trinity cathedral which is unique both in Africa and Ethiopia with its baroque style architectural design and Mount Entoto 3200 above sea level to visit the panoramic view over the city are worth to visit while you are in Addis.
There are also a lot to see and do in the capital by day and by night.
Book nowEXCURSTIONS AROUND ADDIS ABABA
WONCHI CRATER LAKE
Wonchi is a highland area located 155km west of the capital, Addis Ababa. The most prominent feature of the area is the Wonchi Creater Lake. Other major touristic appeals include the beautiful mountainous landscape, which is partly covered with forest, the islands on the lake and the hot mineral springs, waterfalls and dramatic valley around the lake. The area is the best site for trekking and boating. There are different routes for riding or walking and boating depending on the preference of visitors.
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