Gondar is probably the most immediately impressive of Ethiopia’s major ex-capitals, but it is perhaps less enduringly memorable than either Axum or Lalibela. Gondar is one of Ethiopia’s largest cities, yet it has retained its friendly character and is generally considered to be one of the most welcoming towns on the ‘tourist route’. Much of the modern town centre dates from the Italian occupation of 1936-41, although in the last few years a number of bars and hotels have been built or refurbished.

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Gondar was founded in 1635 by Emperor Fasiledes. For several centuries Ethiopia had been ruled from a succession of temporary capitals and Fasiledes recognised that a permanent capital might help provide greater internal stability.

By the time of Fasiledes’ death in 1667 Gondar was the largest and most important city in the empire. It retained its position as the capital of Ethiopia for 250 years, though this status was largely nominal from the late 18th century onwards.

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