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"Asmara - City of Surprises" Top 5 Page for this destination Asmara by janiebaxter

Asmara Travel Guide: 95 reviews and 737 photos

History and Culture

Asmara is on the Eastern edge of Eritrea's highland plateau and has a great climate, clean and attractive streets and a reputation as one of Africa's safest cities.
The city started as 4 villages and was called Arbate Esmere. It grew because of the abundance of fresh water and was used by travellers as a stopover between the sea and the mountains. Eventually it became important as a trading post and when the Italians colonised Ethiopia they invested a lot in Asmara, leaving a legacy of art deco buildings as well as the old steam railway which runs between Massawa and Asmara.
After Italy's defeat in World War 2 Eritrea struggled to keep itself afloat economically so the United Nations decided in 1950 that it would be better off being Ethiopia's 14th province - a move that Eritrea has spent the last 50 years fighting against.
The conflict with Ethiopia finally ended in 2000 and it is easy to see why Eritrea wanted independance as the 2 countries are so different, both religiously and culturally.
There is plenty to see in Asmara and the surrounding areas, and it is a very pleasant city to stroll around and explore, with the faded art deco architecture and the cafes to stop for an expresso


The Fiat building is just one of the many Art Deco duildings around the city. Some, like this one, are in a good state of repair while others are sadly in need of restoration. The are many modern buildings too as well as the much older churches and the cathedral.

Other Things to See

The market in Asmara is worth a visit to see the food and the spice stalls, as well as the colourful fabrics.
Other places of interest include the mosque and the cathedral but the most interesting and unusual places I saw were the Tank Cemetery and the Recycling Yard

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Clean, easy to get around, lots to see
  • Cons:Lacks the edge and grittiness og other African cities
  • In a nutshell:An African city that isn't African
  • Last visit to Asmara: Oct 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (5)

Comments (8)

  • sachara's Profile Photo
    Nov 5, 2012 at 3:45 AM

    Jane, I revisit your pages, now I will visit Asmara myself in december.

  • KiKitC's Profile Photo
    Nov 25, 2009 at 3:01 AM

    The train picture just brings you back in time. Love it. Hope your birthday is full of friends and laughter.

  • lynnehamman's Profile Photo
    Apr 23, 2009 at 12:14 AM

    Another geat African page, Jane. In Cape Town we also saw so many interesting things made from re-cycled tin. Even hand-bags. And nice to see that a steam train is still running here. They are hard to find nowadays.

  • olja1234's Profile Photo
    May 18, 2008 at 10:01 AM

    Very inticing page. Very good tips and photos.

  • sachara's Profile Photo
    Oct 5, 2007 at 3:15 PM

    Nice info about the recycling market and steam railway.

  • grets's Profile Photo
    Sep 23, 2007 at 11:45 AM

    How versitile the Africans are - I love the way they recycle stuff!

  • StockportSteve's Profile Photo
    Sep 18, 2007 at 9:19 AM

    that railway looks really great fun! Nice train photos.

  • triplehelix's Profile Photo
    Sep 14, 2007 at 2:58 PM

    i think i'd enjoy it here. looks a worlds away from other african cities.


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