After the defeat of the Abyssinians at Debra Sin in August 1887 Gondar was looted and fired by the dervishes under Abu Anga.
The Portuguese were expelled by Fasilidas, but his castle was built, by Indian workmen, under the superintendence of Abyssinians who had learned something of architecture from the Portuguese adventurers, helped possibly by Portuguese still in the country.
Measures, apparently successful, were taken to reassure the negus, but shortly afterwards protection inopportunely accorded by Italy to enemies of Ras Alula, induced the Abyssinians to enter upon hostilities.
On the following day, however, the Abyssinians succeeded in surprising, near the village of Dogali, an Italian force of 524 officers and men under Colonel De Cristoforis, who were convoying provisions to the garrison of Saati.
The Abyssinians, 20,000 strong, speedily overwhelmed the small Italian force, which, after exhausting its ammunition, was destroyed where it stood.