This is certainly the greatest festival in the Ethiopian calendar and this year the Gondar authorities added to the celebrations by launching the first Carnival in Ethiopia alongside the more traditional festivities. Here is an edited extract from the circumference.org website which tells about Timkat in Gondar.
“Gondar, one of Ethiopia’s largest cities, springs to life every January for Timkat, the Ethopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany. Timkat, which is celebrated on January 19, commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by reenacting the holy ceremony and nowhere is the festival more stunning than in the 17th-century capital city of Gondar where the Ethiopian Emperors once reigned. The main ceremony takes place in what is known as Fasiledes Bath, located just below the centre of the town in a four-hundred-year-old enclosure.
Travellers gather from all over the world to witness Gondar’s Epiphany ceremony, when replicas, called tabots, of the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments from the Ark of the Covenant are reverently wrapped in cloths and the laity have a rare opportunity to observe their splendour outside of the confines of the churches which normally house them. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated around the Fasilides bath in the morning. At dawn the royal bath is blessed and its waters are sprinkled on the participants, who are then invited to renew their baptismal vows by immersing themselves in the water. The festivities don’t end there. The remainder of the day is spent in celebration, culminating in a colourful procession during which the tabors are escorted back to the churches. The many-hued robes and umbrellas of the clergy illuminate the city streets with unforgettable colours, which move about as the participants perform joyous dances and songs; children run about shouting and playing with sticks and games. Rhythmic songs and dances shake the ground and surge endlessly from dawn to dusk, when the tabots have been safely restored to their church homes. Then its time for an epic Ethiopian feast that visitors will not soon forget.”