ASMARA (Tigrinya : ኣስመራ? ) known locally as ASMERA (meaning
"They made them unite" in Tigrinya ), is the capital city and largest
Eritrea . Home to a population of just over 800,000
inhabitants, it sits at an elevation of 2,325 metres (7,628 ft). The
city is located at the tip of an escarpment that is both the
northwestern edge of the
Eritrean highlands and the Great Rift Valley
Ethiopia . In 2017, the city was declared as a UNESCO
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site .
Asmara is situated in Eritrea's central
Maekel Region . It is known
for its well-preserved colonial Italian modernist architecture . The
city is divided into thirteen districts or administrative areas:
Acria, Abbashaul, Edaga Hamus, Arbaete Asmara, Mai Temenai, Paradizo,
Sembel , Godaif, Maekel Ketema or Downtown, Tiravolo, Gejeret,
Tsetserat and Gheza Banda.
* 1 History
* 1.1 Italian occupation
* 1.2 Federation with
* 2 Religion
* 3 Geography
* 3.1 Climate
* 4 Features
* 5 Economy
* 6 Transport
* 7 Education
* 7.1 Universities and colleges
* 7.2 Primary and secondary schools
* 7.2.1 International schools
* 8 Districts
* 9 References
* 10 Further reading
* 11 External links
Timeline of Asmara
Originally, according to Eritrean Tigrinya oral traditional history,
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. These towns were frequently attacked by clans from the
low land and from the rulers of "seger mereb melash" (which now is a
Tigray region in Ethiopia). Until the women of each clan decided that
to defeat their common enemy and preserve peace the four clans must
unite. The men accepted, hence the name "Arbate Asmera". Arbate Asmara
literally means, in the
Tigrinya language , "the four (feminine
plural) made them unite". Eventually Arbate was dropped and it has
Asmara which means "they made them unite". There is still
a district called Arbaete
Asmara in the
Administrations of Asmara . It
is now called the Italianized version of the word Asmara. The
westernized version of the name is used by a majority of
non-Eritreans, while the multilingual inhabitants of
neighboring peoples remain loyal to the original pronunciation,
The missionary Remedius Prutky passed through
Asmara in 1751, and
described in his memoirs that a church built there by
130 years before was still intact.
Asmara in 1929
Asmara started to grow quickly when it was occupied by Italy in 1889.
Ferdinando Martini made it the capital city of Italian
Eritrea in 1897, in preference to the Red Sea port of
Massawa . In the
early 20th century, the
Eritrean Railway was built to the coast,
passing through the town of
Ghinda , under the direction of Carlo
Cavanna . In both 1913 and 1915 the city suffered only slight damage
in large earthquakes.
A large Italian community developed. According to the 1939 census,
Asmara had a population of 98,000, of which 53,000 were Italian. Only
75,000 lived in all of Eritrea, making the capital city by far their
largest centre. (Compare this to the
Italian colonization of Libya ,
where the settler population, albeit larger, was more dispersed.)
Fiat Tagliero station
The capital acquired an Italian architectural look . Europeans used
Asmara "to experiment with radical new designs". . By the late 1930s,
Asmara was called Piccola Roma (Little Rome). Nowadays many buildings
are of Italian origin, and shops still have Italian names (e.g., Bar
Vittoria, Pasticceria moderna, Casa del formaggio, and Ferramenta).
The Kingdom of Italy invested in the industrial development of Asmara
(and surrounding areas of Eritrea), but the beginning of World War II
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site in July 2017, saying “It is an
exceptional example of early modernist urbanism at the beginning of
the 20th century and its application in an African context”.
FEDERATION WITH ETHIOPIA
In 1952, the United Nations resolved to federate the former colony
under Ethiopian rule. During the Federation,
Asmara was no longer the
capital city. The capital was now
Addis Ababa , over 1,000 kilometres
(620 miles) to the south. The national language of the city was
therefore replaced from
Tigrinya language to the Ethiopian Amharic
language . In 1961, Emperor
Haile Selassie I ended the "federal"
arrangement and declared the territory to be the 14th province of the
Ethiopian Empire . Ethiopia's biggest ally was the United States. The
city was home to the
US Army 's
Kagnew Station installation from 1943
until 1977. The
Eritrean War of Independence began in 1961 and ended
in 1991, resulting in the independence of Eritrea.
Asmara was left
relatively undamaged throughout the war, as were the majority of
highland regions. After independence,
Asmara again became the capital
Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Asmara Church and
Asmara is very diverse when it comes to religion. Four big landmarks
of the city are the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and the Kidane
Mehret Cathedral of the Catholic faith, the Enda Mariam Cathedral of
Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Al Khulafa Al Rashiudin
Mosque of the Islamic faith. Christians and Muslims have lived
peacefully together in
Asmara for centuries. The religion with the
most believers in
Asmara is the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church
Sunni Islam (28%) and Catholicism (19%). The towns and villages
surrounding the city in the highlands are predominantly Christian
(most places being all Christian). Further, towards the lowlands, a
few Muslim towns and villages are found. The
Asmara Synagogue is the
last piece of physical evidence of the Jewish community that once
resided in Eritrea.
Asmara also has the St George Greek Orthodox
Asmara on Selam St.
A street in
The city lies at an elevation of 2,325 metres (7,628 feet) above sea
level . It lies on north-south trending highlands known as the
Eritrean Highlands , an extension of the
Ethiopian Highlands . The
temperate central portion, where
Asmara lies, is situated on a rocky
highland plateau, which separates the western lowlands from the
eastern coastal plains. The lands that surround
Asmara are very
fertile, especially those to the south towards the
Debub Region of
Eritrea. The highlands that
Asmara is located in fall away to reveal
the eastern lowlands, characterized by the searing heat and humidity
of the Eritrean salt pans, lapped by the Red Sea. To the west of the
plateau stretches a vast semi-arid hilly terrain continuing all the
way towards the border with
Sudan through the
Gash-Barka Region .
Asmara features a somewhat rare version of a steppe climate , with
warm, but not hot summers and mild winters. Asmara's climate can also
be considered arid to semi-arid. Due to its 2,325-metre (7,630 ft)
altitude, temperatures are relatively mild for a city located not
particularly far from deserts. This climate is characteristic of
rainy, wet seasons and dry seasons.
Asmara averages about 500
millimetres (20 in) of precipitation annually.
Frost , however, is
extremely rare in the city. The long rainy season of the year extends
from June until September. The short rainy season occurs from March
until April. On average, about 60% of Asmara’s annual precipitation
is seen during the months of July and August. In contrast, December to
February are typically Asmara’s driest months, where on average only
8 millimetres (0.31 in) of precipitation falls in the three months
combined. Due to variable rainfall, Asmara’s climate is also
characterized by drought. Several prolonged droughts in this region
have occurred beginning in the 1960s and have recurred each decade
since then. During periods of drought, temperatures are high and
little rainfall occurs. As temperatures of a region increase, the rate
of evaporation of water from the soil also increases. These combined
processes result in the desertification of the soil. In order to
obtain nutrient rich and moist soil for farming purposes, populations
rely on deforestation to make use of the underlying ground. The most
serious environmental issues
Asmara faces are deforestation and
desertification. Other issues
Asmara faces are soil erosion and
overgrazing. All of these environmental issues produce soil
CLIMATE DATA FOR ASMARA (1961–1990, EXTREMES 1903–2012)
RECORD HIGH °C (°F)
AVERAGE HIGH °C (°F)
DAILY MEAN °C (°F)
AVERAGE LOW °C (°F)
RECORD LOW °C (°F)
AVERAGE PRECIPITATION MM (INCHES)
AVERAGE PRECIPITATION DAYS (≥ 1.0 MM)
AVERAGE RELATIVE HUMIDITY (%)
MEAN MONTHLY SUNSHINE HOURS
MEAN DAILY SUNSHINE HOURS
Source #1: NOAA
Source #2: Meteo Climat (record highs and lows)
Asmara National Museum
The city is home to the
Eritrean National Museum and is known for its
early 20th-century buildings, including the
Art Deco Cinema Impero
(opened in 1937 and considered by the experts one of the world's
finest examples of Art Déco style building ), Cubist
eclectic Orthodox Cathedral and former
Opera House , the futurist Fiat
Tagliero Building , the neo-Romanesque Church of Our Lady of the
Asmara , and the neoclassical Governor\'s Palace . The city is
adorned by Italian colonial villas and mansions , one prominent
example being the World Bank Building . Most of central
built between 1935 and 1941, so the
Italians effectively managed to
build almost an entire city in just six years. At this time, the
Benito Mussolini had great plans for a second
Roman Empire in
Africa. War cut this short, but his injection of funds created the
Asmara of today, which supposedly was to be a symbol that Fascism
worked and is an ideal system of government.
The city shows off most early 20th-century architectural styles. Some
buildings are neo-Romanesque , such as the Church of Our Lady of the
Rosary, some villas are built in a late Victorian style. Art Deco
influences are found throughout the city; essentially
Asmara was then
Dubai is now. Architects were restricted by nothing more than the
bounds of their imaginations and were given the funds to create
masterpieces which we can see today. Essences of
Cubism can be found
Africa Pension Building, and on a small collection of
Fiat Tagliero Building shows almost the height of
futurism, just as it was coming into big fashion in Italy. In recent
times, some buildings have been functionally built which sometimes can
spoil the atmosphere of some cities, but they fit into
Asmara as it is
such a modern city. Modern building in
Asmara overlooking a war
Asmara is also the see of the archbishop of the Eritrean Orthodox
Tewahedo Church , which became autocephalous in 1993. The archbishop
was elevated in 1998 to the rank of
Patriarchate of Eritrea, on a par
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church .
Asmara was known to be an exceptionally modern city, not only because
of its architecture, but
Asmara also had more traffic lights than Rome
did when the city was being built. The city incorporates many
features of a planned city. Indeed,
Asmara was an early example of an
ideal modern city created by architects, an idea which was introduced
into many cities across the world, such as
Brasilia , but which was
not altogether popular. Features include designated city zoning and
planning, wide treed boulevards, political areas and districts and
space and scope for development.
Asmara was not built for the
Eritreans however; the
Italians built it primarily for themselves. One
unfortunate aspect of the city's planning was separate areas
Italians and Eritreans, each disproportionately sized.
Intercontinental Hotel .
The city has more than 400 examples of Italian-style architecture,
wide streets, Piazzas and coffee bars. While the boulevards are lined
with palms and local shiba'kha trees, there are numerable Pizzerias
and coffee bars, serving cappucinos and lattes , as well as ice cream
parlours and restaurants with
Italian Eritrean cuisine .
Asmara dress in a uniquely Eritrean style.
Asmara is also
highly praised for its peaceful, crime-free environment. It is one of
the cleanest cities on the continent.
The city hosts the We Are the Future center, a child care center
giving children a chance to live their childhoods and develop a sense
of hope. The center is managed under the direction of the mayor’s
office, and the international
Glocal Forum serves as the
fundraiser and program planner and coordinator for the WAF child
center in each city. Each WAF city is linked to several peer cities
and public and private partners to create a unique international
Asmara was listed as a
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site in July 2017,
becoming the first modernist city anywhere to be listed in its
The Historic Center of
Asmara was placed on the World Monuments Fund
's 2006 Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites. The listing was
designed to bring more attention to the city to save the center from
decay and redevelopment and to promote restoration.
Following CARP (a World Bank initiative on Cultural Heritage), the
European Union Delegation in
Asmara has engaged into a Heritage
Project pertaining to building's restoration and archive management.
Launched in 2010 the EU/
Eritrea Cultural Project was expected to be
completed in 2014 (Pierre Couté - Edward Denison, Project Design
As the capital city and largest settlement of
Eritrea , most Eritrean
businesses have their headquarters in Asmara. The city was once a
During the colonial period,
Asmara was an administrative and
commercial center of Italian East
Africa . When the British entered
the country in 1941, many businesses were closed down or relocated
outside of the city. This trend continued under Ethiopian occupation.
Nasair and the
Eritrean Telecommunications Corporation are
headquartered in the city. In addition, country's national television
Eri-TV has many studios located in various areas in the
The city of
Asmara is a center for agricultural products and tanning
hides. The primary industrial products of
Asmara are: textiles,
clothing, footwear, processed meat, beer, soft drinks, and ceramics.
Taxis that run in the city of
Asmara start at 07:00 and end at 21:00,
and can get very crowded at peak times. The fare for a shared taxi is
5-10 Nakfa per seat. A contracted taxi can charge between 20 and 300
Nakfa so the price should be negotiated before entering the taxi.
Contracted taxis also run outside
Asmara to various other cities,
towns and villages including;
Massawa , Keren ,
Mendefera , Dekemhare
Adi Quala ,
Nefasit . Long distance buses in
not crowded because it is illegal for passengers to stand in the
aisle. There are organized breakfast and/or lunch stops on longer
trips. When traveling to remote places, like
Assab , Nakfa , Tesseney
Senafe , reservations should be made for the return trip in
advance, to prevent being stranded.
There is a railway station in
Asmara that connects the city with
Eritrean Railway , built by the
Italians between 1887 and
1932, has been recently restructured. Indeed, the line has now been
Massawa all the way through to Asmara, but as of 2006
no scheduled services traverse the whole length of the line. The area
is served by
Asmara International Airport .
Asmara International Airport is the only airport in Asmara. The
airport is very limited in capacity and land extent. The short length
of the runways inhibits large aircraft from flying to the Asmara
airport, and instead these planes must land at
Airport, located in the city of Massawa.
After Eritrean independence, the roads of
Asmara underwent extensive
construction projects. Old roads were renovated and new highways were
also built. There are only five primary roads out of Asmara, giving it
its status as one of Africa’s most isolated capitals.
Ministry of Education in
Asmara is home to the majority of colleges and universities. The city
has always been a national centre of education, and is home to many
elementary and high schools. Until the recent opening of universities
Mai Nefhi and Sawa , it was the seat of the only university in the
University of Asmara . During the period of Ethiopian
Federation and annexation, the college was also linked with what was
then the nation's largest tertiary institution,
Addis Ababa University
. Many campuses have been opening up across the country since
independence, mainly for medicine and engineering.
University coursework in
Eritrea is, for the most part, four years of
academic study followed by one year of university national service in
a relevant Eritrean Ministry. Once these five years are completed,
students are then awarded their degree.
So far, this strategy has been rather successful in adding to the
country’s human capital. Despite challenges in trying to equally
balance human resources, most Eritreans want their career to help
further their country’s success. In other words, most accept their
university assignment as their social obligation to serve a bigger
UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES
University of Asmara
Eritrea Institute of Technology
Asmara Institute of Religious Studies
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS
Asmara International Community School - Anglophone international
Italian School of Asmara - Italian primary school with a
Liceo Sperimentale "G. Marconi" - Italian international senior
* Istituto Italiano Statale Comprensivo (IT) - Italian international
elementary and junior high school
Districts of Asmara
Asmara is divided into 13 districts or administrative areas. These
districts are subdivided into North, North-West, North-East,
South-East, South-West, East, West and Central areas. The thirteen
districts (or Neous Zobas) are: North
* Acria District
* Abbashaul District
* Edaga Hamus District
* Mai Temenai District
* Paradiso District
* Kahawuta District
* Godaif District
* Maakel Ketema District
* Gheza Banda District
* Tsetserat District
* Tiravolo District
* Gejeret District
* ^ A B "CIA - The World Factbook". Retrieved 2 September 2012.
* ^ "
Asmara makes World Heritage list". BBC News.
* ^ Mark Byrnes An African City\'s Unusual Preservation Legacy Feb
08, 2012 Atlantic Cities
* ^ Palin, Michael. Eritrea.
Chalfont St Peter , United Kingdom:
Bradt Travel Guides Ltd.
* ^ J.H. Arrowsmith-Brown, translator and editor (1991). Prutky's
Ethiopia and Other Countries.
Hakluyt Society . p.
78. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link )
* ^ Ambraseys, Nicolas ; Melville, C.P.; Adams, R.D. (1994). The
Seismicity of Egypt, Arabia and the Red Sea: A Historical Review.
Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-39120-2 .
* ^ "Benvenuto sul sito del Maitacli" (in Italian). Archived from
the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
* ^ "
Asmara useful for experimenting with radical designs for
Washington Times . 15 September 2007. Retrieved 8 December
* ^ Italian architectural planification of
Asmara (in Italian) p.
* ^ Italian
* ^ Asmara, the capital of Art Deco
* ^ Encyclopedia of Urban Cultures.
Grolier Publishing Co. 2002.
* ^ Semere, Soloman (23 December 2005). "Groundwater study using
remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) in the central
highlands of Eritrea". Hydrogeology Journal. 14 (5): 729–741. doi
:10.1007/s10040-005-0477-y . access-date= requires url= (help )
* ^ A B Semere, Soloman (23 December 2005). "Groundwater study
using remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) in the
central highlands of Eritrea". Hydrogeology Journal. 14 (5):
729–741. doi :10.1007/s10040-005-0477-y . access-date= requires
url= (help )
* ^ A B C D Ghebrezgabher, Mihretab (September 7, 2015).
"Extracting and analyzing forest and woodland cover change in Eritrea
based on Landsat data using supervised classification". The Egyptian
Journal of Remote Sensing and Space Science. 19 (1): 37–47. doi
:10.1016/j.ejrs.2015.09.002 . access-date= requires url= (help )
* ^ "
Asmara Climate Normals 1961–1990" . National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration . Retrieved January 13, 2015.
* ^ "Station Asmara" (in French). Meteo Climat. Retrieved 22
* ^ Gianluca Rossi, Renzo Martinelli inviato de La Nazione, 2009.
* ^ A B "Reviving Asmara".
BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 3 . 19 June 2005. Retrieved 30
* ^ A B Video on "Italian Asmara" in our days (in Italian)
* ^ http://www.madote.com/2010/11/worlds-safest-city-is-asmara.html
* ^ Wainwright, Oliver (8 July 2017). "The Italian architecture
that shaped new world heritage site Asmara". The Guardian. Retrieved 9
* ^ "World Airline Directory."
Flight International . 23–29 March
* ^ "Fly Eritrean Hospitality".
Nasair . Archived from the original
on 31 May 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
* ^ Welcome to the Telecommunication Internet Service Provider -
TSEiNET, archived from the original on 20 July 2011, retrieved 8 July
* ^ Stevis, Matina (2015-10-21). "What It’s Like Inside Asmara,
One of Africa’s Most Isolated Capitals". Wall Street Journal. ISSN
0099-9660 . Retrieved 2016-11-14.
* ^ Müller, Tanja R. "'Now I Am Free'--Education And Human
Resource Development In Eritrea: Contradictions In The Lives Of
Eritrean Women In Higher Education." Compare: A Journal Of Comparative
Education 34.2 (2004): 215-229. Academic Search Complete.Web. 8 Nov.
See also: Bibliography of the history of
* Stefan Boness: "
Asmara - Africa´s Jewel of Modernity". Jovis
Verlag, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-86859-435-5 (photo book; German,
* Stefan Boness: "
Asmara - The Frozen City". Jovis Verlag, Berlin
2006. 96 pages. ISBN 3-936314-61-6 (photo book; German, English)
* Edward Denison, Guang Yu Ren, Naigzy Gebremedhin, and Guang Yu
Ren, Asmara: Africa's Secret Modernist City (2003) ISBN 1-85894-209-8
* Gianluca Rossi, Renzo Martinelli inviato de “La Nazione”,
2009, ISBN 978-88-7255-356-5
Wikimedia Commons has media related to ASMARA .