Councilmember Craig Rice will lead Montgomery County Sister Cities on a cultural tour to Gondar, Ethiopia from January 16 to January 26. The delegation will include County residents, staff from Montgomery College, Sister City members, and faith leaders. Montgomery County Sister Cities Ethiopia Program was established in 2012 by former County Executive Isiah Leggett to strengthen ties between the County’s Ethiopian community and Ethiop.
Gondar, Ethiopia is one of the County’s prominent Sister Cities and these cultural exchanges foster community engagement through education, events, fundraisers, and partner relations.
During the visit, the delegation will join the mayor of Gondar and other dignitaries to celebrate Ethiopia’s annual three-day Timket celebration in Gondar. This festival commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River by John the Baptist at the Royal Enclosure and Fasilides Bath.
The delegation also will visit the University of Gondar and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his birthday. In addition, the delegation will partner with the University of Gondar to show a historical presentation of Dr. King’s life. Bringing this historical celebration to the people of Gondar raises awareness about Dr. King’s fight for equality and shows how his dream for freedom has impacted America and the world.
Montgomery College leaders also will discuss the possibilities for continuing collaboration with the University of Gondar, which include study abroad opportunities for American and Ethiopian students, faculty exchange arrangements, and other programs that will continue to strengthen ties between Gondar and the County.
Additionally, the delegation will take part in a Day of Community Service, which will include dedicating a park to the Gondar/ Montgomery Sister Cities partnership, donating medical supplies to a local community clinic, and donating computers to local schools and law books to the University of Gondar. The delegation tour will include visits to the Ethiopian National Museum, Falasha Jewish community, historical churches, mosques, and meetings with religious and prominent community leaders.
Dubbed the Camelot of Africa, the city of Gondar, according to the Ethiopia Tourism website, Gondar was the capital of Ethiopia from 1636 until the mid-19th century. Gondar combines a modern veneer with an architectural sensibility harking back to the Middle Ages. The city's physical and architectural centerpiece is Fasil Ghebbi, a stone-walled Royal Compound containing half a dozen fairytale castles including the three-story castle originally built by Emperor Fasil in the 1630s. The Fasil Ghebbi UNESCO World Heritage Site also incorporates several more remote constructions, most notably the Church of Debre Berhan Selassie, with its beautifully painted interior.
According to the Embassy of Ethiopia, the Washington metropolitan area is home to the largest community of Ethiopian Americans outside of Africa. In addition, Silver Spring has the largest concentration of Ethiopian businesses in Maryland.
For more information about the County’s Sister City program visit the website.
Top: Enclosed by tall stone walls, the central Fasil Ghebbi is a seven-hectare 'Royal Compound' housing six fortified stone castles built from the 1630s onward, is the centerpiece of Gondar, which is a Sister City with Montgomery County.
Next: Councilmember Craig Rice. File Photo.
Next: The sunken Fasil’s Pool, overlooked by a two-story building attributed to Emperor Fasil, is where Gondar’s legendarily colorful annual Timkat (Ethiopian Epiphany) celebrations take place on January 19.
Photos courtesy Ethiopian Tourism.