History of Asmara
Although it would be easy to think of Asmara, the Eritrean capital, solely
as an Italian built colonial city, its origins actually reach back some 700
Originally, it is said, there were four clans living in the Asmara area on
the Kebessa Plateau: the Gheza Gurtom, the Gheza Shelele, the Gheza
Serenser and Gheza Asmae.
Encouraged by their women, the men united the four clans and defeated the
bandits who preyed on the area. After the victory, a new name was given to
the place, Arbaete Asmara which literally means, in the Tigrinya language, "the four are united."
was dropped and it has been called Asmara, though there is still a zone
called Arbaete Asmara.
Another legend tells that in this region the Queen of Sheba gave birth to
the son of Solomon, Menelik I.
Asmara was made the capital city of colonial Eritrea in preference to Massawa by Governor
Martini in 1897. The city therefore bears many traces of the Italian colonial
area: in its infrastructure, its architecture and some culinary traditions.
Asmara is by far the largest city in Eritrea, with a population
of some 800,000. Asmara sits atop (2,350m) the Eritrean highlands on the
eastern edge of the escarpment.
Unlike many of the other towns in Eritrea it is relatively undamaged, the
Ethiopian forces having fled the city without fighting a full-scale battle at
the end of the war. Under thirty years of Ethiopian occupation, the city was
allowed to deteriorate, but it still retains its essential beauty and since
coming under Eritrean control in 1991 it has been undergoing a rapid
improvement in infrastructure, building repairs and repainting.
The day begins early in Asmara with the first call to prayer of the
muezzin from the tower of Asmara s main mosque. Not long afterwards the
massive bells of the Catholic Cathedral chime the beginning of the Christian
day while the Orthodox Church celebrates its early morning mass.
Asmara is possibly the safest African capital for travelers. It is one
of the cleanest cities in Africa. The streets are elegantly lined with palms
and a string of boutiques, coffee-shops and restaurants reminiscent of southern
Starting from 1999, I visited Asmara on a yearly basis, and I walked through the city almost every
day. I experienced its beauty, both its tranquility and its activity, the hospitality
and the friendliness of its people. I have tried to catch the images of these walking tours in a
set of 200 pictures and a brief description, as a tourist, for future tourists
and visitors to Asmara Eritrea.
© 1999 - 2012 - Hans van der Splinter
|Hamasien Hotel 1920
||Asmara theatre 1925
|Courtesy Sweet Asmara Caffee -
Harnet Avenue Asmara