“The most marvelous of all Abyssinian landscapes opened before us, as we looked across a gorge that was clouded amethyst to the peaks of Simien. A thousand thousand years ago, when the old gods reigned in Ethiopia, they must have played chess with those stupendous crags, for we saw bishops’ miters cut in lapis lazuli, castles with the ruby of approaching sunset on their turrets, an emerald knight where the forest crept up on to the rock, and, far away, a king, crowned with sapphire, and guarded by a row of pawns. When the gods exchanged their games for shield and buckler to fight the new men, clamoring at their gates, they turned the pieces of their chessboard into mountains.”
Rosita Forbes (1925)
The Simien Mountains is known as “The Roof Of Africa,” located near Gondar, 760km north of Addis Ababa. The Simien Mountains rise to the vast peak of Mount Ras Deshen, at 4620m, the fourth highest peak in Africa.
The lower slopes of the Simien Mountains have been cultivated and animals graze there. The alpine regions are forested, giving way to grasslands on the higher slopes.
The Simien Mountains National Park was one of the first sites to be made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (1978); however, due to serious population declines of the characteristic native species, in 1996 it was also added to the List of World Heritage Sites in danger.
The Simien Mountains are home to the Walia Ibex, Gelada Baboon and the Ethiopian Wolf (formerly know as the Simien Fox) as well as 63 species of birds (7 endemic to Ethiopia) including thick-billed raven, White-collared Pigeon, Wattled Ibis, White-billed Starling, Spot-breasted Plover, White-backed Black Tit.