Gondar is located 750 kilometers north Addis Ababa. It had been capital of Ethiopia for two centuries (1632- 1855). The city's unique imperial precinct contains a number of castles built by various emperors during that era, which in African context is quite an achievement. Although Emperor Fasiledas (1632-1655) built the earliest of these castles just after the expulsion of the Portuguese, the architecture at first sight seems to reflect Moorish - European influence. However, closer scrutiny reveals interesting architectural features of Axumite tradition and a strong affinity with contemporary styles of building fashionable in southern Arabia. Aura of mystery still shrouds the intellectual parentage of the ideas and skills behind those magnificent castles.
Outside the main palace compound, another important building constructed during Iyasu's reign is the church of Debre Berhan Selassie or "light of the Trinity", which stands on raised ground to the northwest of the city. Its inner walls are marvelously painted from top to bottom with innumerable scenes of Biblical lore and medieval history. Today the church still stands with its interior decorations well preserved. It was in Gondar that a rich and distinct expression of architecture, art, music and literature flourished for the first time in history of the country.