ERITREA: A TOUR OF THE TINY AFRICAN NATION YOU NEVER THOUGHT YOU’D VISIT

Ahead of a new flight from London to Asmara, Nick Redmayne explores the African nation on the Red Sea

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ERITREA: A TOUR OF THE TINY AFRICAN NATION YOU NEVER THOUGHT YOU’D VISIT

The silent Grundig wireless sets, empty wine bottles and tired musical instruments made for diverting lunch decor in Ghibabo. Young men and women at a neighbouring table chat, taking in the eccentricity of this restaurant and pizzeria in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea.

“Ethiopian people,” says a nearby diner, pointing at a nearby group. “Tourists.”

After a protracted independence war and 20 years of unresolved border conflict, a peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia was signed in July. Ethiopian Amharic voices are still a novelty in Asmara.

Eritrea lies at the Horn of Africa, bordering Sudan and Djibouti. Its 1,000km Red Sea coast faces strife-ridden Yemen, and curtails port access for Ethiopia. Asmara recently acquired Unesco status for its legacy of Italian modernist architecture. Mussolini envisioned Asmara at the heart of Italy’s new African Empire; an aspiration never achieved.

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