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Eritrea

Main attractions

Mountains near Asmara, Eritrea
Mountains near Asmara / Reinhard Dietrich, , CC0 1.0

Eritrea differs from most African countries regarding its landmarks. Contrary to most African countries here are few breathtaking natural landmarks but - huge variety of excellent man made landmarks. Highlights of Eritrea are:

  • Two cities with historical architecture - Asmara and Massava. Both cities are a true surprise - Asmara is one of world's best examples of Art Deco urban planning and architecture and Massava is amazing monument of Ottoman urban planning and architecture.
  • Ancient and prehistoric cave art. The list of caves with old paintings in Eritrea exceeds 70, some of them contain truly outstanding examples of art. Most often the true meaning of these drawings is not understood by contemporary people.
  • Ancient and prehistoric settlements. The economical and political importance of Eritrea was much higher in antiquity than now. Millenia ago here were located lively trade cities - not all of them have been rediscovered yet.

Natural landmarks

Nabra volcano from satellite in 24 June 2011, Eritrea
Nabra volcano from satellite in 24 June 2011. False red color is used to show hot areas / NASA Goddard Photo and Video, , CC BY 2.0
  • Buia Fossils - Northern Red Sea. Rich find of early Pleistocene fauna and early hominids. Here was found almost complete, nearly 1 million years old skull of a man, a link between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens. Found also remnants of Palaeoloxodon recki.
  • Nabra Volcano - Southern Red Sea. Impressive, 2,218 m tall (before the eruption) stratovolcano which was considered to be extinct until it erupted unexpectedly in 13 June 2011. There might be lava lake in the northern caldera of volcano.

Man made landmarks

Cave paintings

  • Gama cave - Debub, Loggo Sarda. Grotto with petroglyphs - paintings and etchings. Drawings show bovines, humans, geometric symbols in a stylised form, there are also idiomatic symbols, possible letters.
  • Hulum Bareto - Gash Berka, Aret. Old paintings of geometric symbols, stylised humans and animals. It seems that part of symbols has been repainted several times. It is possible that certain families were "owners" of such symbols and according to certain rituals repainted them.
  • Mai Dubburo - Gash Berka, Deghien. Some 40 m deep cave with paintings in red and maroon colors. Paintings show horse riders, humans, geometric signs. In cave were found several vessels, possibly used for natural herb perfumes.
  • Sullum Ba'atti - Debub, Tedrer. Rock shelter with ancient paintings in red, black, yellow colors. Drawings show a stylised symbol similar to Sun, animals (bovines, antelopes, rhinoceros, hyens, felines and others). One drawing show a human riding a bovine.
  • Temalihe - Gash Berka, Deghien. Site with diverse paintings, showing bovines and two giraffes. One panel with 35 bovines is 9 m wide. Another panel shows 45 figurines, mostly warriors. There is also an undeciphered inscription.
  • Zeban Abur I and Zeban Abur II - Gash Berka, Aret. Rock shelters with rich collections of rock art. Drawings show animals, humans and geometric signs.
  • Zeban Kebesa I - Gash Berka, Aret. Cave in sandstone rock with rich collection of rock art, painted in red, yellow, white and violet colors. Here are depicted animals - domesticated bovines and wild felines, kudu, antelopes. Humans - warriors and horse riders - are shown as well.
  • Karora (Abba Ciakat) - Northern Red Sea. One of the best rock art sites in this part of Africa. Polychrome (white, yellow, red, black) paintings on granite, depicting domesticated bovines, humans, camels, horses, geometric signs.

Prehistoric and ancient settlements

Foundations of the 5th century Byzantine church in Adulis, Eritrea
Foundations of the 5th century Byzantine church in Adulis / David Stanley, , CC BY 2.0
  • Adel - Northern Red Sea. Ruins of pre-Islamic settlement in Dahlak Kebir island. Site contains remnants of streets, standing stones of ancient structures, grinding stones, necropolis. Site is unexplored and may bring many interesting discoveries.
  • Adulis - Northern Red Sea. Site of ancient Aksumite port city, most likely abandoned in the 7th century, possibly eliminated by Muslims. During the excavations were found foundations of church and other buildings.
  • Keskese - Debub. Ruins of Aksumite town near Matara. Flourished sometimes around 500 BC, ruins rise up to 14 m in height. Contains stelae inscribed in Ge'ez script.
  • Matara (Metera, Balaw Kalaw) - Debub. Site of ancient and prehistoric settlements, two cities for more than 1000 years have existed here. The younger city existed in Aksumite times, the 4th - 6th century AD. Here was found Haewulti - 5.5 m high stelae with the oldest known example of Ge'ez script from the early 4th century AD.
  • Qohaito - Debub. Ruins of ancient city, which was located on the ancient route between Adulis and Aksum, possible summer capital of Aksumite empire. This area is inhabited since the 5th millenia BC at least, city was abandoned around the 6th - 9th century AD.

Other archaeological monuments

  • Emba Derho Megaliths - Maekel. Group of prehistoric stone circles - including several double circles. Burial in one of circles is dated to 260 AD but stone circles might be older. There are other megalithic monuments in Eritrea as well.
  • Dahlak Kebir necropolis - Northern Red Sea. Islamic necropolis from the 10th - 15th century with some 800 coral gravestones with ancient Arabic inscriptions.

Contemporary cities

  • Asmara Modernist centre - Maekel. The centre of this city was built in Art Deco and Functionalist style in the late 1930s by Italians and now represents one of most complete urban landmarks in these architecture styles. Planning of the city represents a version of ideal city, with many of technological innovations of the period.
  • Massawa Old Town - Northern Red Sea. Amazing monument of Ottoman architecture, mainly built in the 18th - 19th century on two islands. Especially impressive feature is waterfront of city. Includes the fifteenth century Sheikh Hanafi Mosque, Imperial Palace and other historical buildings.
>Asmara St. Joseph's Cathedral, Eritrea
>Asmara St. Joseph's Cathedral / David Stanley, , CC BY 2.0

Christian churches and monasteries

  • Asmara St. Joseph's Cathedral - Maekel, Asmara. Large, ornate cathedral in Neo-Romanesque style, constructed in 1922.
  • Debre Bizen - Northern Red Sea. Christian monastery, founded in the 1350s. Library contains a collection of important Ge'ez manuscripts.
  • Debre Libanos Monastery - Debub (there is another Debre Libanos monastery in Ethiopia!). Site of the oldest monastery in Eritrea. Originally built in the 6th century AD, none of its original buildings are preserved. Near the monastery is located cave with holy spring where the saint lived. Mummies of saints have been found here.
  • Debre Mariam - Debuba. Prominent monastery, founded in the 1340s. Monastery has rich collection of valuable Ge'ez manuscripts.

Other architecture monuments

Fiat Tagliero Building in Asmara, Eritrea
Fiat Tagliero Building in Asmara / Optimist on the run, , CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Asmara President's Office - Maekel, Asmara. Large building in Neo-Classical style, built in 1897 for Italian colonial government.
  • Cinema Impero - Maekel, Asmara. Beautiful building in Art Deco style, constructed in 1937.
  • Fiat Tagliero Building - Maekel, Asmara. Iconic car service station, built in 1938. Building resembles an aeroplane with 15 m long concrete wings not supported by pillars.
  • Massawa Imperial Palace - Northern Red Sea. Ornate palace at the waterfront, built in 1872 - 1874.
  • Shrine of Sahaba - North Red Sea. Small shrine in Massawa Old City, reportedly built by the followers of prophet, who landed here in 615 AD.

List of described attractions by regions

Eritrea is divided into six regions.

Anseba
Debub
Gash-Barka
Maekel
Northern Red Sea
ArrowMassawa Old CityCities and towns, Ancient cities and towns
Southern Red Sea

Map of Eritrea

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