Begemder (Amharic: በጌምድር) (also known as Gondar or Gonder after its 20th century capital) was a province in northwest Ethiopia.

Location of Begemder within the Ethiopian Empire
Guzara royal castle; built by Emperor Minas in 1560


A perhaps more plausible source for the name Bega is the self-name of the word Bega which means dry in the local language or another possible interpretation could be "sheep" where rearing of sheep which is beg in Amharic. Thus, Begemder likely refers to 'land of that rear sheep or The land of Dry area".[1]

Another etymology is that the first two syllables come from the Ge'ez language baggi` for sheep (Amharic: beg medir) "Land of Sheep". Beckingham and Huntingford note that Begemder originally applied to the country east of Lake Tana, where water is scarce, and conclude, "The allusion to the lack of water suggests Amharic baga, "dry season", as a possible source of the name."[2]


The earliest recorded mention of Begemder was on the Fra Mauro map, (c.1460), where it is described as a kingdom. While Emperor Lebna Dengel, in his letter to the King of Portugal (1526), also described Begemder as a kingdom, he included it as a subdivision of his empire. The Guzara royal castle; built by Emperor Minas in 1560 in Enfraz, Begemder (60 Km e of Gonder) as a site of royal residence and camp a century before Emperor Fasilides founded and built the castles of Gondar. During the later 18th century, its capital was at Filakit Gereger, where Ras Ali died in 1788.[3]

Begemder's boundaries were revised as a result of Proclamation 1943/1, which created 12 taklai ghizats from the existing 42 provinces of varying sizes.[4] With the adoption of the new constitution in 1995, Begemder was divided between two new ethnic regions (or kilil): Wolqayt province became part of the Mi'irabawi Zone and Tselemti district became part of the Semien Mi'irabawi (Northwestern) Zone, both in the Tigray Region, while the remainder became the Semien and Debub Gondar Zones (North and South Gonder) of the Amhara Region.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ahland, Colleen (1920). አዲስ የአማርኛ መዝገበ ቃላት. Addis Abeba, Ethiopia: አርቲስቲክ ማተሚያ ቤት. p. 20.
  2. ^ C.F. Beckingham and G.W.B. Huntingford, Some records of Ethiopia, 1593-1646 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1954), pp. 230f
  3. ^ Herbert Weld Blundell, The Royal chronicle of Abyssinia, 1769-1840 (Cambridge: University Press, 1922), pp. 391f
  4. ^ Bereket Habte Selassie, "Constitutional Development in Ethiopia", Journal of African Law, 10 (1966), p. 79.

Coordinates: 12°30′N 37°00′E / 12.500°N 37.000°E / 12.500; 37.000