Diaspora members from nine African countries competed to be selected as Montgomery’s Sister City in an open process organized by the County Executive’s African Affairs Advisory Group that engaged hundreds of county residents. After nine months of review, the advisory group selected Gondar, the ancient capital of Ethiopia. Effective advocacy by the Montgomery College Ethiopian Students Association (MCESA), led by Yasin Yimam and supported by Professor Solomon Teklai and Dean Clemmie Solomon and advisor Genet Aklilu, resulted in the choice of Gondar.
Solomon Ayele led a small delegation to Gondar in January of 2012 to meet with the Mayor and explore the possibility of becoming Montgomery’s second Sister City. Nine months later, a larger delegation accompanied County Executive Leggett who signed a Sister City agreement with the City of Gondar on September 27, 2012.
Gondar is known as the “Camelot of Africa” because of its extraordinary 17th and 18th century castles and churches. For centuries, the Ethiopian emperors favored temporary camps over fixed capitals, but Emperor Fasilides founded Gondar in 1635 and it remained the capital of Ethiopia for more than two centuries. Each emperor built a castle in the royal enclosure, and the remains of these castles stand today at the edge of Gondar’s center city. The architecture of today’s downtown is heavily influenced by the Italian occupation of the 1930s and early 40s. The University of Gondar houses Ethiopia’s main medical faculty. While Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion, Gondar once was home to a large number of Ethiopian Jews.
Ethiopia (population 102,400,000)
15.55 square miles
Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity and Muslim
Eastern African Time (EAT) (UTC+3)
Trade center for agricultural products, textiles, jewelry, copperware, and leatherwork
Members of the Montgomery delegation during a September 2012 visit to Fasil Ghebbi, site of the castles of Ethiopia’s Emperors
With health care falling far short of demand, the main focus of the Gondar committee has been to collect and ship essential medical equipment to the Gondar Health Center. Montgomery College has developed a partnership with the University of Gondar. The committee is collaborating with Gondar Development in North America group to raise money for scholarships for students from surrounding rural areas who attend Gondar University. The committee donated 20 computers to the Hibret Elementary School during the 2012 visit. The committee supports MCESA’s “Books for Africa” project to ship books to Gondar University and surrounding high schools. Hungry for Music provides support for the Miracle Art & Modeling School.
The Gondar committee continues to showcase the Ethiopian culture at high visibility county events including Montgomery County’s World of Montgomery Festival, Ethiopian Festival, and Pan African Cultural Festival.
In January 2019, Councilmember Craig Rice led a delegation of 19 individuals to Gondar including members from Montgomery College, faith leaders, and community members. The delegation experienced TimKet Festival, donated computers and school supplies to Felege Abiyot Elementary School. Later that year, Councilmember Rice extended an invitation to the mayor of Gondar and his delegation to visit Montgomery County.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Montgomery County Sister Cities donated $5,126 to purchase gloves, Isolation gowns and surgical face masks. These items have been donated to the Gondar University hospital where the hospital was designated as a COVID care hospital.
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Deputy Mayor Getinet Amare and County Executive Ike Leggett after signing Sister City agreement in City of Gondar, Ethiopia on September 27, 2012
Celebrating MSC 10th Anniversary partnership with Gondar, Ethiopia sister city on October 25, 2022