A defensive fortress built into the very face of the mountains, granting near-unassailable control of the surrounding lands.
Within their massifs, the high plateaus and mountains of Ethiopia contain geological formations known as amba in Amharic. These specific types of mountain, recognizable by their characteristic flat summits and steep sides, were frequently occupied and fortified by communities seeking refuge and protection. Some of them, overlooking strategic communication routes, were the sites of important clashes during the 19th century.
It was in his fortress built on the Amba Mariam, during the Battle of Magdala, that Emperor Tewodros II committed suicide in 1868 after being defeated by a British expeditionary force who had come to free diplomats imprisoned by the Negus. Almost thirty years later, on December 7, 1895, troops led by Ras Makonnen Wolde Mikael dealt a major defeat to the Italian troops on the slopes of Amba Alagi. This first victory stopped the Italian expansion into Ethiopian territory dead in its tracks.