One of my readers has asked me to provide a bit of background information about Gondar. Until the late 16th century, the rulers of Ethiopia (then Abyssinia) had no fixed capital. They lived a nomadic lifestyle in tents, camping in the high plains. Portuguese missionaries arrived, bringing Catholicism and European ideas of military architecture. in 1635, Emperor Fasilides built a permanent fort as his capital on a hilltop at Gondar in the foothills of the Simien Mountains. After 200 years, Emperor Tewodros II moved the capital to Magdala.
Following the Italian invasion of in 1936, Gondar was developed as the administrative capital for Italian East Africa. A piazza in the centre of the upper town is surrounded by buildings in the fascist art deco style favoured by Mussolini. In World War 2, Italian forces made a last stand in Gondar before being overcome by Allied troops. Much of the colonial architecture is gently decaying concrete, but still being used. The Italian Governor’s residence, complete with a Swedish cast iron cooking range in the basement, has been converted to the Fogera Hotel.
A left-wing military junta called the Derg came to power after the death in custody of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1975. Thousands of opponents of the new regime were tortured and killed in Gondar. Many middle class Ethiopians fled the city and walked 100 miles to the Sudanese border, before reaching the USA as political refugees. It is said that every family in Gondar has at least one relative in the USA.