Contemplation in Gonder

September 14 , 2019 . By Tsion Fisseha

With an attempt to expand my horizon and also spend some quality time with my friend, I made my way up to one of the most historical cities in Ethiopia, Gonder.

The first thing I noticed when I got there was the pure love the people of Gonder have for the architecture of Fasilides. The airport and its surroundings were designed to resemble the piece of art left by the glorious king they seem to adore.

The city also posed as a replica of the geniuses of the 17th century, built by Fasilides and home to Ethiopia’s emperors.

Despite the beauty that resided in Fasil Ghebbi, the castle, my friend and I felt the wrath of our forefathers somehow expressing their disappointment in the people we have become.

The tour guide kept telling stories of wisdom and courage, of love for one’s country, of bravery and knowledge that seem lacking in abundance from where we stood.

Mohammed, our tour guide, explained the strategic view of the castle, the meeting rooms where discussions were held and decisions were made, the horse stables, the halls where husbands were met and seats where the king and queen enjoyed each other’s company.

And even in the stimulating atmosphere, I could not help but feel depressed about not only failing to live up to the standards they left but also being unable to protect the heritage they built.

The compound is enclosed by a curtain wall, which is pierced by twelve gates. This meant, I felt pain 12 times, and I also rejoiced the same amount of time as my heart filled with pride for kings and queens I have kept in the shadow all the while idolising the stories of foreigners who have obviously done amazing wonders throughout the universe.

I realised that we are individuals caught between the personal and the public, the known and the unknowable, the publicised and the forgotten. We, as a generation or generations, have failed to continue the hard work the brave ones have left us and even more alarmingly done almost all we can even to go as far as destroying these measures of greatness.

The tour guide also reminded us of the Dark Age: 100 years of no central rule and regional struggle for power that led to chaos. A brief moment in history that took us back thousands of steps. And I could not help but wonder about the Dark Age that we are unknowingly going into right now.

The age-old motto - “We were once great, and we will be great again” - is no longer a myth in my book. I have come to realise that we were great, our civilisation authentic in its nature was built from the ground up, we are a people who grew accustomed to wild animals and did all we could to allow the animals to become accustomed to us. We are but more importantly, we were.

This luxury of history being passed down from generations seems to be shaken and will lose its way if we do not come to realise that we are the ones to make it better or worse. If we do not believe that, the stories we have been hearing will be just that, stories.

Despite the glory in the past, the mainstream media works day in and day out to highlight the poverty and hunger of the people of this country.

Sadly, we do not seem to work to change that reality. And after all is said and done, we are the only ones that can strive to make the change this country needs. We are the ones who should get off our high horses and get to work.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 14,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1011]

Tsion Fisseha is a writer and head of foreign languages in the news department at a local TV station. She has been a part of a pan African poetry slam competition representing Ethiopia and is a member of a rock band entitled the Green Manalishi. She can be reached at

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