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Asmara, capital of Eritrea

Updated on February 18, 2011

The city of Asmara

Asmara is an african capital, of a small country on the shore of the Red Sea, named Eritrea. It has a colorful history, which involves arabs, african tribes, Aksumite Empire, the italians, the brits.
It is Asmara that is one of the most interesting capital cities in Africa, most cosmopolitan, refreshing and with a cultural legacy that shouldn't be overlooked.

A short outlook on the beautiful country of Eritrea

Eritrea (official name State  of Eritrea / Hager Ertra

It is a state in the north - east Africa, bordered by Sudan (605 km) at north and northwest, Ethiopia (912 km) at south and west, Djibouti (113 km ) at south-east and the Red Sea (1151 km) on the east side. Dahlak Archipelago and Hanish Islands in the Red Sea  are part of Eritrean territory.Italian and British colony, Eritrea was annexed by Ethiopia in 1952, which resulted in a long war of liberation that culminated in Eritrean independence in 1993. Eritrea's capital and largest city is Asmara.

This amazing small african country, on the shore of the Red Sea, right across being the arabian world. Its capital city, Asmara is a delicious mixture of african, arabian and european atmosphere which makes Eritrea a great destination.It has a unique location, at the junction of arabic and african worlds, having a rich cultural and historical heritage, a marvelous geographical design with amazing views, a mix of weather types and friendly and interesting people.

Eritrea will offer the visitor a wide range of possibilities to spend time and have fun: many archeological sites, as Eritrea was the land of the Aksumite Epire during ancient times, scuba diving in the spectacular Red Sea, hikes, and of course Asmara itself will be a delight just to see and walk through.

An insight on Eritrea's history

In ancient times, Eritrea was part of the kingdom of Aksum, until it started to crumble in the 7th century A.D., and the Eritrean coast was conquered by the Arabs. In the Middle Ages, it became a province of the Ethiopian state. The sixteen century is under the influence of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1868 Massawa is occupied by the Egyptians.
In the nineteenth-century Italy is beginning to infiltrate, but has no authority other than over the coastline. In 1889 Italy declares coast of Eritrea as a colony of Italy and names it by the latin word for Red Sea, which was Mare Erythraeum. After the war between Italy and Ethiopia and after Addis Ababa Peace Treaty (1896), Ethiopia is recognized as an independent state, the boundary line Mareb-Belas-Mura marking separate geographical and political entity.

In 1936 Eritrea is united with Italian Somalia and Ethiopia in the so called "Italian East Africa", with the capital of Asmara. (In 1936, Mussolini conquered Abyssinia.) In 1941 the British forces in Sudan free Ethiopia and occupy Eritrea . By 1952, it remains under British administration. In 1952, by the UN resolution, Eritrea is declared autonomous region in Ethiopia, in 1962,it becomes an Ethiopian province. From the will for independence emerges a guerrilla movement that fights to achieve autonomy and separation from Ethiopia. 30 years of armed resistance continues and ends with half a million refugees and 100,000 dead .

Since 1977, Ethiopia has a Marxist regime, the USSR and Cuba supported the national movements against secession. In 1991 it is established a provisional government to hold a referendum on independence under UN supervision. Eritrea is declared an independent state in May 1993.

Asmara - A unique capital city

Perched on the rocks that stand 2500 meters above the Red Sea, Eritrea's capital city, Asmara or Asmera ( how it is also called ) is a delightful destination. It has everything that an african Nice or Monte Carlo would have, and it almost makes you feel you're in some mediterranean resort, although it's located about 110 km from the shore of the Red Sea.

Asmara has an almost perfect climate, as the temperatures are always somewhere around 30 degrees Celsius, and the rains may occur from late June to September, although they are usually quite mild and won't represent an impediment to a good holiday.

In the capital of Eritrea you will have the chance to be enchanted by interesting and variated architectural styles, heritage from the many civilizations that were once living on the land of Asmara, a lot of archeological sites telling the story of an ancient empire, streets which are lined by palm trees and friendly people all around, not to say about the charming landscape.

Asmara is right on the highlands of Eritrea and it's not just an italian colony as its history dates about 700 years back. Its name means " the united four " as it was founded by four clans which were living around the area were the city stands today, which united to put the cornerstone of the future Eritrean capital. A legend tells that the famous Queen of Sheba would have given birth to her and Solomon's son, Menelik the first.

It was only in 1897 when Asmara, by the decision of the italian governor at that time, Ferdinando Martini, become the capital of Eritrea, by replacing Massawa.
The italian trademark may still be seen in Asmara's architectural style, infrastructure, even some culinary legacy still prevails.

Asmara is the city with the highest population number, somewhere around 500.000 inhabitants and will welcome the visitor with the beautiful african vegetation blended with the italian heritage : bougainvillea flowers, plam trees, the Theater , the Catholic Cathedral built in lombardic style, some mosques and an orthodox church, Inda Mariam.

All main points of interest are placed on the Liberation Avenue, which is the pinnacle of the city of Asmara, everything is here.

Asmara sights and attractions

The Liberation Avenue is the key point of Asmara's sights. Take a walk along this street to discover a lot of cozy restaurants, bars, pizza houses, cafes, cinema, and right behind the Catholic Cathedral you'll find Asmara's main marketplace where you can find souvenirs.
On the Liberation Avenue there is also the tallest building in the city, the Nyala Hotel, which has on top a cafe where you can have a drink and enjoy the view.

If you want to get to the outskirts, you may take a taxi and ask to go to the Biet Ghiorghis Zoo, which is not too far from the city, and then to Bar Durfo, a nice cafe on a clifftop overlooking the beautiful landscape of the highway between Asmara and Massawa.

And if you decide to see the Red Sea, than you must choose the railway from Asmara to Massawa as it's one of the most scenic route you'll ever see: you'll get to see mountains, cliffs, desert, tunnels, steep land, viaducts and many others. There are about 75 miles that you will fully enjoy.

Hotels in Asmara

The capital city of Eritrea has plenty of hotels for any taste or budget. Asmara hotels prices are also reasonable, so anyone can enjoy a long stay for a good price.

Hotel Asmara Palace - a 5 stars hotel, the best in Asmara. It is not very close to downtown ( it's about 4 km away ), but it is near the Exhibition Center and the UN Headquarters, and also 2 km form Asmara airport. It has indoor and outdoor pool, some pubs and cafes, restaurant, 148 deluxe guest rooms, suites and maisonnettes for long-stay guests. Rates vary between 140 $ - 630 $ per night, depending on the accommodation unit and services included. It is the most expensive hotel in Asmara.

Hotel Albergo Italia - it is the oldest hotel in Asmara, as it was built in 1899 and restored in 2005. It is a stylish hotel, with a good location in the center of the capital city of Eritrea and it is rated by most tourists as the best in Asmara, although there are some complains about the honouring of confirmed reservations, as the hotel is usually overbook due to high demand. The rates starts at 80 $ per night per standard room with breakfast ( 10% taxes not included ) at can go as high as 250 $ per night for a 3 persons room with full board included.


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    • cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

      Treathyl FOX 

      3 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Well! That was a nice trip to Asmara! You weren't kidding when you said "colorful history". Thanks for taking me there. :)


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