The Fasilides Bath
Although it is assumed that this structure was built around the same time as the Royal Enclosure, it is unknown who commissioned the Fasilides Baths. It is generally attributed to either Emperor Fasilides or his son Iysau I.
The compounds walls have been slowly engulfed by the thick slithering roots of ancient badian trees that are now intertwined with the crumbling brickwork.
The compound consists of the bath, a central tower and bridge that's used when the bath is full.
Once a year, on the 19th January, the bath is filled as part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian celebration Epiphany, also known as Timkat. The festival is meant to replicate Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan.
Visiting Gondar during Timkat is one of the most magical cultural experiences in Ethiopia. Pilgrims from across the country arrive to partake, and witnessing the festivities play out amongst ancient structures is a testament to the importance of historical sites like this for Ethiopians, their traditions and values.
Beyond the main complex - positioned just east of the bathhouse - you can find Zobel's Mausoleum, constructed decades after the main complex by emperor Yohannes I.
Built in honour of the emperor's favourite horse, local folklore tells a story of how the Zobel the horse earned such recognition from the king.
The story goes that emperor Yohannes, still very young at this time, was hunting for buffalo in the vast expanse surrounding the city of Gondar when he was attacked by a group of bandits.
Although injured, the soon-to-be emperor managed to stand his ground, and fought his way back to Zobel. Once back with his trusted steed, the pair raced home, leaving the bandits in a cloud of dust. As part of their escape, it is reported that the horse vaulted a fence which stood at over 25 metres, saving the young prince in the process.
From this day on, the horse remained the king’s favourite, however years later his services would be called on again...
Whilst at war with tribes in neighbouring Sudan, Prince Iyasu, son of Yohannes, heard his father's poor condition after contracting an unknown illness. With little time left to see his father, Iysau called about the fastest pacer in his stables, and the pair raced back together, allowing the son one last chance to say goodbye.
In recognition of such acts of valour and bravery the mausoleum was constructed, and upon his death, Zobel was laid to rest within its confines.
Visiting Fasilides Bath
Fasilides Bath is typically visited during a wider city tour of Gondar.
There are 3 major attractions in Gondar: Fasil Ghebbi, Debre Birhan Selassie Church, and Fasilides Bath. All 3 can be explored in a morning or afternoon, and most people will spend a night or two in Gondar to fully explore the town beyond the historic monuments and churches.
Gondar is the gateway town into the Simien Mountains National Park, so many visitors head up into the mountains for a couple of days hiking after visiting Gondar.
Ready to visit Fasilides Bath?
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