Ethiopian Emperors

Because of the mosquitos the other night, we started taking malaria pills earlier than we had hoped. The rest of our stay here is at altitudes over 6000 feet, too high for mosquitos. We had hoped to delay until we got to Uganda, but now we need to take them every day until a week after we get home.

We spent the day today in Gondar, the third capital of Ethiopia. The first two, Axum and Lalibela are our next two cities.

Somewhere along the line, a king established his capital here at Gondar and built a castle in 1638. Gondar is in a valley surrounded by mountains, so evidently hard to get to for Invaders. His sons and grandsons built their own palaces, 5 in all, all in this one compound, now a World Heritage site. After invasions by the Mahdi from Sudan in the 1880s (he was a Muslim fanatic ala ISIS) and bombing by the Italians in WWII, the buildings are in various stages of disrepair, but you can get a good idea of life here.

My favorite part of all this is hearing that each king would imprison potential rivals, like his brothers and sons, in luxurious homes some distance away.

While preparing for this trip, we read some very well-written, interesting books by Alan Morehead. He was a Brit who wrote all this in the 1960s, and he tells the stories accurately, but from a western, specifically English, perspective. He writes about Emperor Theodore (1860s) as a crazy, bloodthirsty villain. Here, however, they revere Tedoros, whose picture is all over the place, on the back of tuktuks, in the background of modern politicians’ photos, on tshirts worn by people in the street. The is a large statue of him in the main square.

After the castles, we went to a swimming pool built by some guy a long time ago (apology to Teshi, today’s guide) with a building in the middle. They fill the pool for an Epiphany celebration once a year. Since that was only a few weeks ago, it still has some water, now getting quite green.

We visited a ruined church, then went to lunch at a really nice restaurant, the Four Sisters. They had an Ethiopian buffet, we took all vegetarian items. One of the drink waiters noticed and remarked approvingly that we were having fasting dishes. Wednesdays and Fridays are fasting days, when they go vegan, no animal products. Three kinds of lentils, several kinds of beans, spinach, vegetables, with rice and injera. Spicy and delicious.

A young woman did a coffee ceremony. She roasted raw, dried coffee beans in an iron pan with holes in the bottom over a charcoal fire. When the beans had turned black, she walked the smoking beans in the pan to each table in the restaurant so people could smell the toasty goodness. She then brewed them and served in little handleless cups. Very good!

Tomorrow we drive to a national park to hike and see baboons that are the highest altitude (non-human) primates.