Our hotel in Addis set up a 5 AM breakfast for us this morning so we could get to the airport in time for our flight to Gondar. We made it in time and arrived in Gondar shortly after 8 AM. A large van took us to the Goha Hotel at the top of the lookout mountain in town we remembered from 50 years ago. The mountain was familiar, but the changes in Gondar over the last 50 years were huge. The population has grown from 30,000 to half a million people and the city spread out below us in all directions. Despite all the change, Randall found the way to the house we lived in 50 years ago. The current inhabitants welcomed us. It was meaningful for my adult children, especially Rand and Jeff. They were ten and six when we left Gondar in 1969, while Amy was almost three. We took some pictures as we recalled 50-year old memories. The rest of the family was interested in all of this also. Tammi made the comment she was glad to finally see the place that Jeff had talked about through the years.
We spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon seeing impressive ruins of the various royal palaces built in the 1600s and 1700s when Gondar was the capital of Ethiopia. The young lady who was our tour guide told us interesting stories about the royal families of that era. Perhaps the most interesting of the palaces was the Bath-house of the Emperor Fasil built a couple kilometers south of the main royal compounds. This palace is surrounded on all sides by an extensive deep pool area that is filled with water from the nearby river in late January every year. A colorful three-day religious event takes place with baptisms being done at an appropriate time. Dozens of young men and youth dive into the 15-foot deep pool to conclude the celebrations. Thousands of people come to witness this event every year.
We took time out for a classic Ethiopian lunch at a local restaurant that our guide recommended. It was wonderful, rivaling the feast we had in Addis a day earlier. We concluded the day by visiting a famous Orthodox Church. Males and females are required to enter the church through separate entrances, and everyone has to take off their shoes before entering. The walls and ceiling of the church are covered with Ethiopian paintings depicting various scenes in the Bible. Our guide explained that these paintings allow illiterate Ethiopians to follow the services conducted by the priests. It makes for a colorful service.
Tomorrow we’re going to visit a Falasha village a few miles north of Gondar, and then visit the roadside town of Amba Ghiorghis where my team from the Public Health College conducted teaching clinics fifty years ago. It will be interesting!