The city is located at an altitude of 2325 meters on the edge of the high plateau, which drops steeply from here to the geological depression formed by the spreading zone between the African and Arabian plates and in the deepest zone of which is the Red Sea .
Asmara is the largest city in the country with around 896,000 inhabitants (as of 2018).
Before the colonial era
According to oral tradition, shepherds founded four villages in the area of today's city in the 12th century, which regularly conflicted with one another. Their wives are said to have decided one day to come to an agreement and make peace. The name of the city is derived from this founding myth, earlier ኣርባተ ኣስመራ, Arbate Asmera , which means: "The four have united", which was later shortened to the current name. The modern part of the city, in which the historical core of the city was located, is still called Arbate Asmara.
The Ethiopian general Ras Alula , who controlled the area of Medri Bahri after the occupation by Ethiopia in 1879, was fighting against the Italian colonial troops in 1884 when he established a fortified residence on a hill of Asmara. With that he created the basis for the modern development of the city. In 1889, Asmara was occupied by Italy , which in 1900 instead of Massaua made it the capital of the Italian colony of Eritrea . In 1911 the Massaua – Biscia railway reached the city. It was later supplemented by the Massaua – Asmara road , further road connections to the hinterland, the railway line continued to Biscia and in 1937 the Massaua-Asmara cable car to the port of Massaua went into operation.
In Italian fascism , Asmara gained significant importance as the center of the Italian deployment area for the Italian-Ethiopian War (1935–1936) from 1932 at the latest and experienced rapid growth, especially through immigration from Italy; the population quintupled to almost 100,000 inhabitants, more than half of them Italians. The population growth was followed by a construction boom to cope with the new functions. The buildings that were subsequently erected from the mid-30s are often characterized by modern and high-quality architecture, which, however , was realized without any consideration for the local population and traditional structures and with partial introduction of racial segregation .
From this period, numerous buildings in the style of Razionalismo , the Italian version of classical modernism , are still preserved today . Asmara has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the “modernist city of Africa ??” since 2017 .
The Italian language is often still present in the city: the manhole covers bear the inscription Comune di Asmara - Fognature ("Municipality Asmara - sewage network"), bars and restaurants occasionally have Italian-language names such as Bar Vittoria , Roma , Cinema Impero or Pasticceria Moderna . Older people in particular speak Italian very well and there are many Italian forms of expression such as Andiamo! (“Let's go!”) Or E allora? ("So what?") Common.
British colonial times
On April 2, 1941, the British army occupied Asmara without a fight after the Italian army surrendered after the Battle of Keren . The British occupation pursued a rigorous dismantling policy from 1942 to 1952 , which they regarded as Italian war reparations , but which severely damaged the infrastructure of the country and the city.
Due to the federation with the Abyssinian Empire in 1952, Asmara lost its role as the country's capital. This sinking into the provinciality, the poverty of the country and the lack of investments due to the Eritrean War of Independence , which had spanned three decades since 1961, meant that the historical building fabric was largely preserved.
On May 24, 1991, the EPLF took Asmara as the last city in Eritrea.
Capital of Eritrea
With the independence of Eritrea in 1991, Asmara regained its function as capital. All of the country's central authorities have their headquarters here. Today, the size of the city has multiplied compared to the colonial times thanks to the construction of new offices and villas and the influx of people from the countryside.
Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Asmara
Due to its location in the cold tropics, the days are warm all year round and the nights are cool.
- Eritrean Orthodox Cathedral Nda Mariam
- Church of Our Lady of the Rosary
- al-Qulafa-ar-Raschidin Mosque, built by Guido Ferrazza in 1937.
- Eritrean Catholic Church Kidane Mehret
- National Museum of Eritrea
- Asmara Opera House
- Fort Baldissera, Italian fortress on a hill in the southwest
- Italian cemetery (with a Jewish cemetery as a section)
- Asmara Airport : Asmara International Airport is four kilometers south of Asmara and is the only one in the country with international connections.
- Rail: Asmara is now the end point of the country's only railway line that runs from Massaua here. The continuing line to Keren and Agordat had to cease operations at the beginning of 1975 due to the civil war and the continuing line to Biscia was already dismantled by the British colonial power as a reparation payment. The route to Asmara has been operating exclusively for tourists since 2001: on Sundays there is a train to Nefasit . In addition, trains can be chartered for the entire route.
In November 2011, the African Cycling Championships took place in Asmara .
Sons and daughters:
- Tadesse Abraham (* 1982), long-distance runner
- Isayas Afewerki (* 1946), President and Prime Minister of Eritrea since 1993
- Hamid Idris Awate (1910–1962), Eritrea's most famous freedom fighter
- Natnael Berhane (* 1991), racing cyclist
- Nando Cicero (1931–1995), Italian film director, screenwriter and actor
- Vittoria Febbi (born 1939), Italian actress
- Alganesh Fessaha (* 1948), Italian-Eritrean human rights activist
- Eleni Gebrehiwot (* 1984), German long-distance runner
- Tekle Ghebrelul (* 1969), Danish-Greenlandic football coach of Eritrean origin
- Filmon Ghirmai (* 1979), German obstacle and long-distance runner
- Remo Girone (born 1948), Italian actor
- Amiaz Habtu (* 1977), presenter and rapper
- Mebrahtom Keflezighi (* 1975), American long-distance runner of Eritrean origin
- Bruno Lauzi (1937–2006), Italian cabaret artist, composer and writer
- Gianni Manera (1940–2013), Italian actor and film director
- Salvatore Marino (* 1960), Italian actor (including Die Kinderklinik )
- Aron Mehzion (* 1970), artist and innkeeper in Düsseldorf
- Amanuel Mesel (* 1990), long-distance runner
- Enzo Muzii (1926–2014), Italian film director, writer and photographer
- Ribka Sibhatu (* 1962), writer, born in Asmara, has lived in Rome since 1992
- Tedros Adhanom (* 1965) Director General of the WHO
- Tedros Teclebrhan (* 1983), German actor and comedian
- Eskindir Tesfay (* 1976) German actor, martial artist and film producer
- Meron Teshome (* 1992), cyclist
- Peter Volgger and Stefan Graf: Architecture in Asmara. Colonial Origin and Postcolonial Experiences. DOM publishers, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-86922-487-9 .
- Peter Volgger: The Asmara case. Fascist architecture rebranding in Africa? In: Thomas Spielbüchler, Markus Wurzer (Ed.): Africa - Approaches and Classifications: Africa Research in Austria. University of Linz 2017, pp. 25–49, urn : nbn: at: at-ubl: 3-151 .
- Simone Bader: Modernism in Africa. Asmara: The Construction of an Italian Colonial City 1889–1941. Gebr. Mann Verlag, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-7861-2759-8 .
- Stefan Boness: Asmara: Africa's Jewel of Modernity. Jovis, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-86859-435-5 (photo book, German / English)
- Edward Denison: Asmara: Africa's Secret Modernist City. Merrell Holberton, 2003, ISBN 1-85894-209-8 (photo book, English)
- Christian Welzbacher: Conquering Africa with petrol stations. Surrender to building history: the Asmara exhibition in Berlin shies away from analysis. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . November 17, 2006.
- Erminia Dell'Oro: Asmara addio. Baldini Castaldi Dalai, Milano 1997.
- Private website about Asmara (and Eritrea) in English
- Jörg Brause: Africa's modern city.
- Omar Akbar and Naigzy Gebremedhin: A World Heritage Site: Asmara - Africa's secret capital of modernity. In: eins - Development Policy Information North-South. (February 19, 2007), accessed December 31, 2013
- Thomas Drebusch: Examples of the architecture of Rationalismo in Asmara.
- CIA World Factbook : Eritrea, Section: People and Society (accessed July 9, 2018).
- Arbate Asmara: the origin of the city. | Retrieved January 13, 2019 .
- Dan Connell, Tom Killion: Historical Dictionary of Eritrea. ( Historical Dictionaries of Africa, Volume 114) Scarecrow Press, Lanham / Maryland 2011, p. 96, sv "Asmara"
- Simone Bader: Fascist Modernism in Africa. Car and architecture in Asmara. In: Aram Mattioli , Gerald Steinacher : Building for Fascism: Architecture and Urban Development in Mussolini's Italy. Orell Füssli , Zurich 2009, ISBN 978-3-280-06115-2 , p. 353.
- Aram Mattioli: On the way to an imperial spatial planning in Italian East Africa. In: Aram Mattioli, Gerald Steinacher: Building for Fascism: Architecture and Urban Development in Mussolini's Italy. Zurich 2009, pp. 327–352; abridged version of the article in Die Zeit , February 26, 2009, No. 10, p. 86: Terror und Moderne. Mussolini's colonial city of Asmara in Eritrea is set to become a World Heritage Site because of its avant-garde architecture .
- Asmara: A Modernist City of Africa ??. German UNESCO Commission, July 27, 2017.
- See: Bocresion Haile Gebre Mussie: The Collusion on Eritrea . 2nd Edition. Asmara 2007; Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst: Eritrea on the Eve . London 1952.
- Ribka Sibhatu , poetrytranslation.org
- Ribka Sibhatu , encyclopediaofafroeuropeanstudies.eu