Bahir Dar is the burgeoning capital city of the Amhara Regional State. It is the centre of culture, trading and industry of the region built at the shore of Lake Tana. Bahir Dar is the port of the tankwa (papyrus boat) fleet, which was once a link for the city with the many islands on Lake Tana. The booming tourist industry in the region has led to a considerable investment in hotels. From the visitor’s point of view, the significance of Bahir Dar lies in its proximity to Lake Tana Islands and the Blue Nile Falls.
With an area of 3000 sq.km.Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, is the largest lake in Ethiopia. It is also an archipelago of 37 islands, twenty of which shelter ancient churches. Some of the churches are the repositories of the finest murals and rare illumination of the Middle Ages period of the Ethiopian history. Security consideration, known to have been very serious at one stage of the country’s history is believed to have been behind the decision of many churches to seek and find safe haven on Lake Tana islands. An interesting feature typical to Lake Tana is the tankwa (papayrus boat), operated by lake-side people known as the Woytos.
Not all churches and monasteries on Lake Tana are open to women. But the church of Ura Kidane Mehret on the Zeghe peninsula and another one on the peninsula are exceptions. Ura Kidane Mehret, with a conical thatched roof is one of the oldest houses of worship on Lake Tana. Its vivid fresco, decorating the outer sides of the walls depict scenes from biblical lore and tales from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
The Blue Nile, the largest river in Ethiopia, placidly flows out of Lake Tana on its long journey to the White Nile and the Mediterranean. And just before a chasm, the 400m. wide silt-laden river roars down along a 45m precipes into a pandemonium. As it does so, billions of minute droplets dampen the air as far away as one kilometre. They look like the white smoke of a forest fire and that is why the local people called the spray Tis Issat (the smouldering fire that forms rainbow).