The first Europeans to record their visit to Ankober were the Evangelical missionaries Carl Wilhelm Isenberg and Johann Ludwig Krapf in 1839. However, at the time there was a small colony of Greeks, who made their living as craftsmen and tradesmen. In the following years, a steady stream of travelers visited Ankober, including Captain William Cornwallis Harris. Following the death of Meridazmaches Sahle Selassie in 1847, the Abichu Oromo rebelled and attacked Ankober; only the firearms Sahle Selassie had collected there saved the capital. The Shewan’s burned the town in 1856 in reaction to the invasion, and eventual conquest, of Emperor Tewodros II.
Debre Berhane was founded by Emperor Zara Yaqob, in response to a miraculous light that was seen in the sky at the time. Believing this was a sign from God showing his approval for the death by stoning of a group of heretics 38 days before, the emperor ordered a church built on the site, and later constructed an extensive palace nearby, and a second church, dedicated to Saint Cyriacus. Zara Yaqob spent 12 of the last 14 years of his life in Debre Berhane.
Ankober may have formerly been known as Gorobela. Meridazmaches Amha Eyesus, moved the capital of Shewa from Doqaqit to Ankober. It remained the principal residence of the rulers of Shewa until Negus (later Emperor) Menelik II moved it to Mount Entoto in 1878, although Wossen Seged preferred to live at Qundi during his reign. The name of the town is said to have been taken from an Oromo Queen, Anko, who ruled the town during the reign of Qedami Qal
Set at an altitude of about 1,500m near the base of the escarpment, 15km from Ankober, Aliyu Amba is in itself remarkable only for boasting a vulnerable mosque. Aliyu Amba owed its importance to its location on the caravan route that stretched west from Saqqa in the Gibe region to Harar in the east and Tadjoura on the Red Sea. It was the most important market of central Ethiopia in the early and middle 19th century, and its merchants were almost entirely Muslim. The rulers of Shewa and of Harar co-operated in keeping this west-east route open. As a result, the two potentates were in regular contact, and the head of the Harari community in Aliyu Amba was appointed by the Emir of Harar. This town was also an important center of the amole trade in the 1830s, and Mordechai Abir notes that a 10 percent duty on all sales rendered to the Shewan government 3,000 Maria Theresa Thalers in cash and the equivalent of 2,000 in kind.
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