Keren is 90km north of Asmera. Set on a samll plateau at 122m above sea level,and surrounded by mountains, it is one of Eritrea´s most attractive towns. Trade thrived once Keren was connected to Asmera by the old Italian railway, and the litttle town grew. Today, it is the third-largest town in the country and is still an important center of commerce. The center of Keren is marked by the Giro Fiori (Circle of Flowers) roundabout. Keren is home to a number of graveyards. The British War Cemetery lies off the Agordat road north-west of town. In it, 440 Commonwealth troops lie buried, including the Hindu soldier Subadar Richpal Ram of the Sixth Rajputana Rifles, who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain´s highest military decoration for bravery.
Just past the cemetrery, a small statue of the Madonna watches over the road from Agordat in the west. The well-tended Italian Cemetery lies close by, and if one continues on foot a further 20 minutes, one comes to the shrine of St Maryam Dearit, 2.3km out of town. On 29 May every year, there´s a pilgrimage to the site, and hundreds of people congregate to dance and sing.
|The old Italian railway station (now a bus station) and the old residential area testify to Keren´s Italian heritage. As in Asmera, some of the architecture is exceptional for the period. Several Italian Raoman Catholic churches dot the town, including St Antonio and St Michael.|
Overlooking the town to the norht-east is the Tigu, the Egyptian fort (Forto) at 1460m, dating from the 19th century. At its foot lie the ruins of the old Imperial Palace, which were destroyed during the Struggle in 1977. There are good views from the top of the fort.
There are a couple of monastries around Keren, including the Debre Sina monastery, thought to date from the 6th century. The older, inner part of the church (which unlike many monastries in Eritrea is open to both men and women) is hewn from the rock and, according to local tradition, is 2100 years old. The troglodyte dwellings of teh 60 nuns and priests who live there can also be visited. The monastery lies around 35km east of Keren on the Gheleb road.