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The Medieval City of Gondar, Ethiopia
The Medieval City of Gondar, Ethiopia  
One of the earliest Europeans to see Lalibela was the Portuguese priest Francisco Álvares


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Gondar sits high and proud 7,500 feet above sea level with mountains rising on every side and Lake Tana gleaming in the distance. The site of the city was well chosen for defense because it spreads over the top of a ridge making access to it difficult from any direction.

For 200 years during Ethiopia's Middle Ages in the 17th and 18th Centuries,the kings of Gondar ruled much of Northern Ethiopia. In 1632 King Fasilides selected Gondar as his capital, and it soon became the political and cultural center of the country. Although the civilization of Axum was one of the mainstrings of Ethiopian culture, the achievments of the Middle Ages, centered in Gondar, have had a great influence on the nation.

After the decline of the Zagwe Dynasty at Lalibela, Ethiopia was ruled by kings who moved the court with them from place to place in Northern Ethiopia. Moslem armies sought to penetrate the highlands and under Ahamed Gran in the 16th Century, burned Axum and defeated the Ethiopian armies. By this time the Portugese had established contact with the Kingdom of Prestor John and sent Christopher da Gama, a son of Vasco, to help Ethiopia fight the Moslem armies. After the death of Ahamed Gran, Portugese missionaries sought to convert the Ethiopians to Roman Catholicism but failed. By the 17th Century the period of long religious conflict with the Moslems and Portugese was passing and a new epoch was ready to be added to Ethiopian history.

King Fasilides and his dynasty built some of the most remarkable buildings in Africa, and Gondar became an imperial walled city of towers and castles. Although influenced by Portugese design, the castles emerge as thoroughly


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