Ethiopia - Gondar


The airport bus cost us 100 birr in Lalibela. We were picked up from the hotel. The flight was due to time schedule. The airport taxi cost us 200 birr in Gondar. Although the flight to Gondar last only 1/2 hour, all trip, door to door, took 4 hours.

We had booked one single and one double room over 2 months before arriving in Ethiopia by At the reception desk I showed the booking confirmation. The employee and owner claimed that they knew nothing about the reservation and at all. They said they had never registered the hostel at Despite high season (Timkat celebration) they had two rooms available but the price was 2 times higher. We had to pay 120 USD for two rooms (one single without a bathroom, the other double with a bathroom) for 3 nights. The standard was hopeless. Almost every day the water was turned off for a few hours. I do not recommend Queen Taytu Hostel.

We met a Danish man in Gondar. He booked accommodation in Gondar in advance. A week before check in, he was informed  that the hotel was badly damaged by fire and the reservation was cancel. He had to pay higher price for new accommodation. When he reached Gondar he went to the 'damaged hotel'. The hotel was in good condition and he was informed that there had been no fire at all. Don't trust hotel managers. They don't respect bookings and can cancel your reservations at the peak season in Ethiopia. Don't pay any money in advance.

There are several attraction in Gondar. They are located relatively close to each other and one/two days is enough to see all of them.

A unique attraction is Fasil Ghebbi, the only castle located on the south of the Sahara in all of Africa. It was founded in XVII century. The building resembles Scottish castles. A ticket costs 200 birr. We visited well-preserved walls and a few old buildings. The most magnificent was the castle. There is nothing to see inside the castle and other building, only walls. Walking around the complex is very relaxing. I recommend the site.

Debre Berhan Selassie is located 2-3 kilometer from the castle. You can take tuk-tuk, first price 100 birr. The church was founded in XVIII century (admission 100 birr) and it is very nice inside and outside as well. The inner walls are decorated with paintings that present scenes from the Old and New Testaments. One of the paintings is different from the others and picture prophet Muhammad riding to hell on horseback. The ceiling is decorated with about 140 heads of angels, whose eyes seem to be watching us all the time.

You can also go to Fasiladas Bath. The pool is filled with water once a year during Timkat holidays.

The main purpose of our visit to Gondar was the Timkat festival. It celebrates the baptism of Jesus in Jordan. The celebrations last three days. On the first day there are religious processions from main churches to Fasiladas Bath. Pilgrims walk several kilometers . The largest, colorful and singing procession goes from the city center. Almost all residents of the city participate in the festival. Ladies and children are dressed very smartly. Some dresses are decorated with crosses.  The procession is moving very slowly. At the beginning the Monstrance is carried by priests. People are praying, dancing, singing. It is peaceful and joyful ceremony. There is only one exception, groups of young men are running with wooden sticks on the streets of Gondar. I witnessed a fight between two groups. It was very fast clash but a boy's head was bleeding.
All procession went to Fasiladas Bath. Some of the Christians prayed at the site all night.

I think the procession is the most interesting and colorful element of the Timkat celebration. You can watch it on the movie from the celebration of the Timkat festival in Gondar:

We got up at 4 am next day to take part in the main event of Timak celebration. We took a tuk tuk to Fasiladas Bath and went to the tourist and vip platform. The number of seat is very limited and it is better to take a seat 3 hours before celebration.

The religious ceremony was very unique and interesting. When the water in the pool was blessed, tens young men jumped into the water. In fact it was chilly morning and the water was cold in the pool.

Leaving the walled historic Fasiladas Bath, I saw a thousands of local Christian gather outside the walls surrounding the pool. ​​They prayed looking at the walls. At the same time small groups of vip and tourists (most of them were not members of Ethiopian Orthodox Church) could see the ceremony from the first row. Some locals wanted to climb on the top of the walls but they were beaten by uniform men with nightsticks. I think it is not fair.

Timkat is not only religious but also secular event. When the church celebration is over locals go to bars and restaurants. They are eating, drinking, chatting. Young people like dancing. You can watch African dancing on the film:

We spent three days in Gondar. Last day we took a taxi (200 birr - extremely expensive because of Gondar celebration) to bus terminal. We went to Bahir Dar by minibus (70 birr) .