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gondarThe next stop on the historic route is the graceful city of Gondar. Founded by Emperor Fasilidas in 1603. The city was Ethiopia’s capital until the reign of the would-be reforming Emperor Tewodros II, also known as Theodore. During its long years as a capital, the settlement emerged as one of the largest and most populous cities in the realm. It was a great commercial centre, trading with the rich lands south of the Blue Nile, as well as with sudan to the west and the Red Sea port of Massawa to the north-east. Gondar is famous for its many medieval castles and the design and decoration of its churches. The earliest of the castles was created by Fasilidas himself and is Still in such an excellent state of repair that it is possible to climb its stairs all the way of the roof, which commands a breathtaking view over much of the city. Besides the famous palaces, visitors should inspect the Bathing place of Emperor Fasilidas, which is used for the annual Timker or Epiphany celebration, and the abbey of the redoubtable 18th-century Empress Mentewab as Qwesquam, in the mountains just outside Gondar.