Gondar is an imperial city that was founded by the Emperor Fasilidas in 1635. Three rulers Fasilidas, Yohannes I and Lyassu 1st each marked the splendour of this era, which was based on an agricultural town with shops, arts and buildings.
The former fortified palace of the Kings of Gondar occupies a large area in the city centre. One cannot help but evoke “The Abyssinian”, the novel by J.C. Rufin, with the adventurous journey of the ambassador of Louis XIV.
The building and its crenellated towers appear like a fortress, not dissimilar to a castle in Scotland, when the sky turns into a storm. Within the walls of the castle, one can visit the ruined palaces of three other kings surrounded by a pleasant park.
The baths of the Emperor Fasilidas, a small building built in “Gondariño” style framed by a pair of towers, is a swimming pool of about 3,000 sq m at the foot of the building. The trees in the enclosure blend with the stone wall surrounding the pond to achieve a magical harmony. Here, every January 19th, the Ethiopian Orthodox Epiphany, called “Timkat” (commemoration of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan), is celebrated. For the occasion, the pool is filled with water from the nearby river. On the appointed day, the faithful place themselves around the water and attend the liturgy. The priests are present in their rich ceremonial dresses, with a replica of the Ark of the Covenant wrapped in a cloth held over their heads. The faithful are immersed in the pool to renew their baptismal promises and purify their souls, the crowd is such that not all the participants can dive into the sacred waters. After the ceremony, the purifying water returned to its origins.