The literal meaning of the Amharic term Bahir Dar is “Sea Shore.” Hence, Bahir Dar is a city in north western Ethiopia, which is situated on the southern shore of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile (Abay) and where local fishermen still use papyrus boats. The city is located approximately 310 km north-northwest of Addis Ababa, having a latitude and longitude of 11°36’N 37°23’E and an elevation of 1700m above sea level. It is on the north central plateau of Amhara in the Ethiopian highlands, near Gonder. It has an estimated area of 28 square kilometers and an estimated population density of 5,973.60 people per square kilometer (CSA, 2005).
Bahir Dar city is distinctly known for its wide avenues lined with palm trees and a variety of beautiful and colorful flowers. In addition, the variety of attractions in the nearby Lake Tana and Blue Nile river, makes Bahir Dar one of the leading tourist destinations. Furthermore, the city is considered as one of the most beautiful, well planned, and safest cities by many standards. As a result, Bahir Dar city was awarded UNESCO cities for Peace Prize.
Bahir Dar city is is equipped with an airport with paved runways. Ethiopian Airlines operates scheduled flights between Bahir Dar and Addis Ababa as well as with Gondar to the northwest. In addition, the city is connected through roads to these cities. Though cycling is the most common and convenient way of traveling within Bahir Dar city, intercity buses and taxis provide efficient transportation in the city.
The largest in the country, covering 2,156 sq km (832 sq mi), is located 1,830 m (6,000 ft) above sea level. About 85 km (about 53 mi) long and 65 km (41 mi) wide, the lake reaches a depth of about 15 m (about 50 ft). About 50 streams, the largest of which is the Little Abbai, or Upper Nile, flow into the lake. The outlet of Lake T’ana, at its southeastern corner, forms a bay about 17 km (about 11 mi) long and 12 km (8 mi) wide. From this bay issues the Abbai, or Blue Nile. Blue Nile (Abay) river in northeastern Africa, 1,370 km (850 mi) long. It rises at an altitude of 1,830 m (6,000 ft) in the region of Lake T’ana, in northwestern Ethiopia, flows south and then west in Ethiopia, and follows a northwestern course in Sudan before merging, at Khartoum, with the White Nile to form the Nile proper. The Blue Nile, which contributes about two-thirds of the water of the Nile, is known as the Abbai in Ethiopia, where it, in part, flows through a deep gorge.
Here the Blue Nile creates “Smoking Water” an awe-inspiring sight as it plunges into the gorge below.