Asmera-01 Asmera-02 Asmera-03 Asmera-04 Asmera-05 Asmera-06 Asmera/London-07

With a perfect climate, remarkable architecture and spotless, safe streets, Asmera ranks among the most pleasant capitals on the African continent. Perched on the eastern edge of the highland plateau, some 2356m above sea level, Asmera´s climate is classed as "tropical highland" - in other words, balmy and temperate, with "cloudless" blue skies for about eight months of the year.

With a population of 420,000 is Asmera easily the largest city in Eritrea, though by most African standards it´s tiny. The town has long evoked clinched comparisons to "southern Italian towns". In some ways, Asmera is very Italian, not just in the tangible remnants of colonial days, such as Centocinque taxis and Art Deco architecture, but also in the way of life - the morning capuccino, the evening passegiata (stroll) around town and the relaxed, unhurried pace of life.

However, that is just one facet of Asmera. It´s also undeniably African and Arab. In the morning you´ll hear the sound of the cathedral bells and the footsteps of the Orthodox monks on their way to Mass as well as the calling of the Muezzin for the faithful prayers. These sounds are symbolic remarkable harmony that reigns in the city and throughout the country among the four different religions and nine ethnic groups. Apart from the Catholic cathedral, Asmera is home to 28 mosques and a thriving Muslim market, 12 Orthodox churches and a Jewish synagouge. From October to March, Asmera is a riot of jacaranda, hibiscus and bougainvillea.


The town was first settled in the20th century by shepherds from the Akele Guzay region. Encouraged by the plentiful supplies of water, they founded four villages on the hill that are now the site of the Orthodox church of Enda Mariam. The site became known as Arbate Asmere (Four Villages joined) from which the name Asmera is derived.

The little village then became a staging post for travellers making the long and arduous journey between the sea and the maountains. Soon it had developed into a small but bustling trading center.

By 1884, the town was home to some 2000 inhabitants and 300 houses, established on the hills where the city´s water reservoirs now stand. Asmera then caught the eye of the Italian general Baldissera and, in 1889, he took it over. A fort was built (some traces of which remain) and a square building (which later became the Governor´s Palace) for the Comando (commander) Truppe. Italian architects and engineers got to work and has soon laid the foundations of the new town - Picolla Roma, as it was dubbed, was born.

In 1897, the first governor of Eritrea, Governor Martini, chose Asmera (in preference to Massawa) as the future capital of the Italian East African empire. During the Fascist years of Mussolini and amid dreams of great military conquests in Abyssinia, the town was greatly enlarged and a military base was installed.

During the 30 years long independence struggle, Asmera was the last town held by the occupying Ethiopian army and , from 1991, it was gesieged by the Eritrean People´s Liberation Front (EPLF). By a fortuitous turn of events, the Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Hailemariam was overthrown in 1991, his troops fled from Eritrea and a final confrontation in the capital was avoided. Asmera was left intact.. It was one of the very few Eritrean towns to survive the was undamged.

Asmera-01 Asmera-02 Asmera-03 Asmera-04 Asmera-05 Asmera-06 Asmera/London-07