A king needs a castle.
So that’s what they built for King Fasiledes, ruler of Ethiopia, roughly 400 years ago in 1636 when the City of Gonder was founded.
Gonder was the capital of Ethiopia for nearly 200 years. Only in the late 19th century did Addis Abeba, New Flower, start serving as the capital for the country.
There are several buildings on the site, but Fasilede’s castle remains the most known of them all. The architecture inside the stone walls has been influenced by Hindu and Arab cultures. The place has been named as a UNESCO heritage site.
There was no lack of drama during this royal era. King Fasilede’s grandson Iyasu the Great is told to have gone into a deep depression after his favourite wife (there were many, of course) died. His son, Tekla Haimanot, realizing his opportunity had arrived, killed his father and declared himself the Emperor of Ethiopia. But it didn’t last long. Tekla was also killed and so was his next two successors as well. The killings ended when Emperor Bakaffa took over.
Nothing reminds of those brutal killings inside the stone walls today. The castle area is a peaceful haven in the middle of a busy, hilly city. Tourists taking selfies, jacarandas blooming, birds singing. The lions’ roars cannot be heard anymore, only the empty cages remind of these animals who were once kept here for royalty.
I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own
I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
“Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!”