Founded in l636 by Emperor Fasiladas (l633-l667) Gondar was the capital city of Ethiopia until l855. It is a home of numerous castles, churches, monasteries. The most famous buildings are those inside the imperial precinct, known as Fasil Ghbi (the Royal Enclosure). The compound contains seven castles, library and banquet hall built in the 17th and 18th centuries by several different rulers. The compound is enclosed all round by a great battlement wall with 15 entrance gates. It also contains eight lion cages, symbolising the power and strength of Ethiopian kings.
Each of the castles found in the compound follows a similar architectural pattern. The basic unit of this pattern was four domed towers made of stone, with adjacent cisterns to maintain a permanent water supply, each surrounded by walled compounds. The structures are influenced by Aksumite, Portuguese and Indian styles. The Gondar castles have been the setting of power struggles, coups d’etat, wars of conquest, rebellions, death and celebration.