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Pole to Pole

Day 78: Gondar to Bahir Dar

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleOne boy, Mohamed Nuru, speaks English well. He is one of a family of seven. Large families are common in the poorer parts of Africa as they represent an economic asset - a family work-force. He has lost friends and family in the war. He is Muslim but many of his friends are Christian and the two religions get on well here.

English is taught in schools as a second language and Mohamed listens to the BBC World Service.

'I have a great chance to listen for football . . . particularly England football . . . club football. Every Saturday from four to six.'

His favourite team is Manchester United, but I try to put him right.

One thing there is no shortage of in Gondar is sewing-machines. A line of machinists stretches up the hill and all seem busy. I take one of them my trousers, severely ripped in the cause of leaving Sudan, and with ninety seconds of work on his foot-pedalled Mansukh machine he has restored them to full health.

To get away from the relentless pressure of the market, Graham and I go off to look at Gondar's fine stone-walled castles. The first one was built by the Emperor Fasilidas in 1635 when Gondar was made capital because of a superstition rife at the time that the capital should begin with a 'G'. The five emperors who followed him all built their own castles, in the grounds, as it were. The distinctiveness of these dark towers has much to do with Ethiopia's curious history. It is unique in Africa in having been ruled by a direct line through forty-five generations, and though these fortified palaces reveal a distinct European influence, Ethiopia was never colonized. The link with the Jews is fascinating. Graham has a well-researched theory that the Ark of the Covenant is held in a chapel not far from here, and he has just completed a book on his findings.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 78
  • Country/sea: Ethiopia
  • Place: Gondar
  • Book page no: 169

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