Palace to be transformed into cultural center
The Ras Sehul Michael’s palace, also known as Ras Ghemb, is one of Gondar city’s remaining examples of historically significant architecture. It lends a touch of old majesty to Piassa area where it is located. Now the palace is being transformed into a cultural and study center dedicated to the history of Gondar.
The palace, currently under possession of the department of culture, tourism & information of North Gondar, will soon be accessible for public viewing, it was learnt. Though in reasonable shape, it has been closed to visitors for a significant period of time.
The town’s tourism bureau has confirmed that the process to convert the palace into a cultural center has been finalized. The cultural center would show ancient books, manuscripts, church relics and more modern historical items. Its location in the heart of the city would help tell the story of past and recent events, it was said. “Ras Ghemb sits at the heart of Gondar’s historic cityscape and our vision for the project has focused on building on this legacy to restore the building to its former glory,” head of the tourism bureau Ato Zewdu Wuletaw said. The palace will boost the town’s appeal as a visitor destination, boosting investment, he added.
Gondar remains one of Ethiopia’s most pleasant cities. The streets are lined with palaces and churches whose red-brick facades are the architectural signature of kings and queens from the 17th and 18 centuries.
Ras Ghemb was the stronghold of Ras Sehul Mikael. This powerful Tigrean prime minster and General held sway at Gondar from the reign of Iyasu II (1730-1755) till after his defeat at the battle of Sabakusa on May 23rd, 1771.
The castle stands in the town at some distance from the Imperial enclosure of the Emperors. The Italians adapted it as vice-regal residence, extensively renovating it without much knowledge or regard for the traditions of Gondar architecture. The interior has been lined with entirely new wood paneling. Aggressively modern bathrooms have been installed in the corner towers. Nevertheless, the basic structure of the castle has not been changed.
The palace was subsequently used as holiday residence by Emperor Haile Selassie and as an interrogation hall under the Mengistu regime.
(Photo Courtesy of photo Zoble and Leul)