Bahir Dar is situated on the southern shore of Lake
Tana the source of the Blue Nile (or Abay). The city is located
approximately 578 km north-northwest of Addis Ababa. and an elevation of
about 1,800 metres (5,906 feet)above sea level.
The Blue Nile, locally known as Abbay, is the
major tributory of the great Nile river - the longest river in the world. The
Blue Nile river starts from Ethiopia's lake Tana and merges with the smaller
tributory White Nile at Khartoum Sudan to form the Nile River. The mysterious
Nile was long hidden from Western geographers and explorers. It was not until
the expeditions of such great travellers as Bruce, Burton, and Speke that the
secret of this grand river—which had fascinated, and eluded, even the ancient
Romans and Greeks - was revealed. It was then confirmed that the White Nile
originates in East Africa's Lake Victoria, while the Blue Nile pours out of
Ethiopia's Lake Tana.
From Bahirdar one
must explore some of the ancient monasteries that have been built around Lake
Tana, or on the many Islands. The colourful local market at Bahirdar is
renowned for its weavers and wood workers.
Lake Tana, the largest lake, in Ethiopia is the source and from where the famed
Blue Nile starts its long journey to Khartoum, and on to the Mediterranean. The
37 islands that are scattered about the surface of the Lake shelter fascinating
churches and monasteries, some of which have histories dating back to the 13th
Century. However, it should be noted that most of the religious houses are not
open to women. The most interesting islands are: Birgida Mariam, Dega
Estefanous, Dek, Narga, Tana Cherkos, Mitsele Fasiledes, Kebran and Debre
Kebran Gabriel is
the principal monastery visited by male tourists from Bahirdar, with its
impressive Cathedral-like building first built at the end of the 17th Century.
Dega Estephanos, which is also closed to women, is on an island in the lake,
and the monastery is reached by a very steep and winding path. Although the
church is relatively new ( only hundred years old) , it houses a Madonna
painted in the 15th century. However, the treasury of the monastery is a prime
attraction, with the remains of several Emperors, as well as their robes and
On the banks of the lake are many more religious houses, such as Ura Kidane
Mehret and Narga Selassie, many of which are also open to be visited by women.