Fasiladas' Bath

Historic Site in Gonder
Image by Tim Bewer / Getty Images

Around 2km northwest of the piazza lies Fasiladas’ Bath, which has been attributed to both Fasiladas and Iyasu I. The large rectangular pool is overlooked by a charming building, thought by some to be a vacation home. It’s a beautiful and peaceful spot, where snakelike tree roots digest sections of the stone walls. Minibuses (Birr3) from near the piazza pass here. A contract bajaj is Birr20. You must obtain your ticket at the Royal Enclosure before visiting Fasiladas’ Bath.

Although the complex was used for swimming (royalty used to don inflated goat-skin life jackets for their refreshing dips!), it was likely to have been constructed for religious celebrations, the likes of which still go on today. Once a year, it’s filled with water for the Timkat celebration. After the water is blessed by the bishop, the pool becomes a riot of splashing water, shouts and laughter as a crowd of hundreds jumps in. The ceremony replicates Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River and is seen as an important renewal of faith.

Just east of the main compound is Zobel’s Mausoleum. Local legend states it’s named after Yohannes I’s horse, which ran so fast that he was able to escape some bandits he encountered while out hunting buffalo. Another tale says that it heroically brought Iyasu (Yohannes’ son) back from Sudan after his father’s death. Not only was the horse a good walker, but it could, it is said, jump 25m in a single leap.