This is “the city set on a hill”, just like the gospel of Mathew has said. It’s the city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. Just like Jesus said in the Bible, this city is a better definition of what Jesus was trying to say.
Shonke is a 900-and-something-year-old settlement (according to Islamic calenders), it is located in the Amhara region. It is on one of the highest points of the country with a significant number of high points. The Oromiyi is where the Shonke city is located, it is close to 1,600 metres, which is about 5200 feet above sea level.
This means that the Shonke people live in an area that is high up into the sky. This also means that the Shonke city is higher than the Burj Khalifa, which is the highest building in the world.
This place is an entirely Muslim community, which their ancestry traces back to the Arabs that ran from the Gulf wars in the Gulf region to hide in Abyssinia (the ancient name of Ethiopia). As refugees, these Arabs were protected at that time by their village which had two gates that were heavily guarded. Those gates are still standing to this very day.
People also call the people of Shonke “Agrobba” which means “The Arabs came in”. Shonke Islamic culture is very much known. In the 19th century, Shonke became an Islamic education centre that produced some Islamic scholars.
One of them is Shaykh Jawhar bin Haydar bin Ali, who a famous Islamic scholar, that is known as Sheikh of Shonke.
The Shonke people are proud of their heritage. Their current mosque Sheikh, Hadji Mohammed, boasted that “no better place” than Shonke that has the original teachings of the Quran.
Mohammed told BBC that Shonke has had 20 generations since the first settlers that arrived in Shonke. But in recent generations, people have started migrating downhill to settle in the mountain farms. The Sheikh said that they had 500 households, but they now have only 250 households.
Life is Shonke is not so easy. It is not easy for people to climb up and down the mountain, so the people that live up the mountain, don’t contact those the people downhill very often. Shonke is made of farmers that also keep livestock.
But the Sheikh said that the Shonke people make their homes with rocks and they don’t really care about beauty or fancy.
The people of this town want the uniqueness of Shonke to remain for the sake of generations to come. Shonke is a unique place to visit, that’s if you have the energy to climb up the mountain.