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The 17th century Atse Fasiledes Castle, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, is under threat of destabilization by loud and strong vibrations created during festivals and concerts held at Meskel Square in Gonder City.
In 2014, Gonder City Culture and Tourism Bureau prohibited music concerts from being held at the square, but some festivals go on unauthorized.
A young tourist guide working in Gonder city told Capital that the City Administration should be more resolute to stop musical events from taking place in the square. “The site is not only a national heritage; it is a source of many people’s livelihoods, like tourist guides, tour operators and the city’s people. The city administration had banned musical events from being held at the place, but some organizations and groups still play music on big speakers which make vibrations strong enough to penetrate through the castle’s walls.”
More than 100 people per day visit the site. Most are often critical about the shoddy state of the facility and poor services at the site. “On the outer walls of Fasiledes Castle garbage piles up, telling others that we are reckless in preserving our national heritage,” a local said.
Lelena Gebremeskel, a heritage expert with Gonder City’s Culture and Tourism Bureau, said the bureau had forbidden any sound emitting activities from being held at the square. “Nearly a year has passed since we banned any concerts and festivals from being held in the area and we strictly monitor for obstructions. This heritage is not protected by government; it is supervised and renovated by UNESCO.”
The city’s dwellers told Capital that the square is not entirely sealed off from sounds, despite the city administration’s law.
Between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries, Ethiopian rulers’ royal camps were mobile, but King Fasilidas, who ruled Ethiopia from 1632 to 1667, settled in Gondar and established it as his permanent capital in 1636.
Before its decline in the late 18th century, the royal court had developed from a camp into a fortified compound called Fasil Gimb, a royal enclosure consisting of six major building complexes and ancillary buildings surrounded by a wall 900 meters long, with twelve entrances and three bridges. Subsequent emperors built their own structures on the premise, many of which have survived partially or in their entirety.
Atse Fasiledes Castle is an amalgamation of building complexes, namely Fasilides’ Castle, Iyasu I’s Palace, Dawit III’s Hall, a banquet hall, stables, Empress Mentewab’s Castle, a chancellery, library and three churches: Asasame Qeddus Mikael, Elfin Giyorgis and Gemja bet Mariyam.