Eritrea World Heritage

World Heritage Sites in Eritrea

World Heritage Site

  • Asmara – City of Classical Modernism (2017)

Asmara – Eritrea’s modernist capital

According to a2zgov, Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, is little known and is likely to cause a big surprise to the unprepared visitor. Because Asmara’s city center harbors an unusual treasure trove of classical modern buildings. When Eritrea became an Italian colony in 1890, Asmara began to be developed as the capital. Strategically located, the city later served as a bridgehead for the conquest of Ethiopia (Abyssinia War 1935/36). According to Mussolini’s will, Asmara was to become a European-style metropolis in East Africa. Well-known Italian architects were able to realize their work here, and so buildings were built in the style of Novecento, Scuola Romana, Art Deco, Razionalismo or Futurismo.

Asmara – Eritrea’s Modernist Capital: Facts

Official title: Asmara: a modernist city in Africa
Cultural monument: Center of Asmara with government, residential and commercial buildings, churches, synagogues, mosques, cinemas, hotels and other buildings built between 1893 and 1941 based on the Italian model; also the original Arbate Asmera and Abbashawel districts that were not developed according to urban planning plans.
Continent: Africa
Country: Eritrea
Location: in the east of Eritrea, 2340 m above sea level. M, on the steep edge of the Ethiopian highlands
Appointment: 2017
Meaning: extraordinary testimony to urban development at the beginning of the 20th century and its implementation in an African context

La piccola Roma – the little Rome

As the representative capital of the new settlement project in Italian East Africa, Asmara was to be modeled on Rome. For this, however, traditional parts of the city had to be demolished to make way for a new infrastructure based on the fascist ideal. A lot of money has been invested in building separate residential areas for Italians and locals, separate restaurants and access roads to the center. During the various phases of the Italian-influenced urban development, government and commercial buildings as well as numerous representative residential buildings, as well as churches, hotels, hospitals, petrol stations, bank buildings and cinemas were built. At times there were more Italians than locals living in Asmara. The Italians were once very proud of their beautiful city – their “little Rome”. And the vernacular says that Eritreans,

The Italian way of life is still reflected today not only in some unusual, futuristic buildings – such as the submarine-like petrol station by Carlo Marchi, but also in a whole series of buildings in the finest Art Deco style. Examples of this include the elegant Cinema Impero, designed by Mario Messina in 1937, the painted ceiling in the opera house and Italian-style bars such as the Odeon.

Even under British rule, over 30,000 Italians stayed in the city and shaped urban life. The Eritrean War of Independence against Ethiopia (1961–1991) did little to damage most of the buildings, as it was more likely to take place in the countryside. Today, however, extensive renovation work is necessary to preserve Asmara’s architectural treasure.

Eritrea World Heritage


Not only the war, but also the famines resulting from the drought (Sahel, desertification), used strategically by the Ethiopian government to combat the liberation movements, caused around 500,000 people to flee in the 1970s and 1980s. a. to the Republic of Sudan.

In the 1980s, the Eritrean forces achieved increasing military success and pushed the Ethiopian army more and more back. After the collapse of the communist system of government in Ethiopia in May 1991, the EPLF enforced its rule throughout Eritrea and formed a provisional government. The national independence of Eritrea was sought by mutual agreement with the new Ethiopian government and was granted after a referendum monitored by the United Nations (April 25-27, 1993; over 98% voted for independence). After the election of I. Afewerki(Secretary General of the EPLF and Head of the Provisional Government) as President of the Transitional Government (May 21, 1993), the Republic of Eritrea was proclaimed on May 24, 1993. The main problems of Eritrea were initially the reconstruction of the country, the soon faltering repatriation of the numerous war refugees and the demobilization of the liberation army, which comprised around 200,000 soldiers. In 1995 Eritrea and Ethiopia signed an agreement to create a free trade area. After a ruling by the International Court of Justice, Eritrea returned the Hanisch Islands to Yemen in 1998, ending a three-year dispute over the islands that are important for shipping; the previously unclear sea border was set at the same time.

In a report published by the UN Human Rights Council on June 8, 2016, the Afewerki regime was accused of massive human rights violations such as executions, systematic torture and arbitrary arrests. A large part of the population also has to do permanent military service. The poor economic conditions and the repressive political situation caused hundreds of thousands of Eritreans to flee their homes.

The prospect of opening the port of Assab in eastern Eritrea to Ethiopia led to a rapprochement between the two warring states in mid-2018. On July 9th In 2018, a peace and friendship treaty with Ethiopia was finally signed in Asmara.