Today is the 7th Commencment of the Orotta School of Medicne, every Eritrean would agree that we are blessed with amazing doctors. The history of Eritrean doctors starting from the days of the armed struggle is a history of humanity; and just like their forefathers and foremothers, here we are now, with amazing young professionals who continue the legacy. Thus on this special juncture, we are with a special guest today; last years’ graduate Dr. Dawit Tesfai.
By Yishak Yaried The presence of Italian colonialism in the Dahlak Islands is only felt with the military hardware, unexploded devises and the prison camp in Nakura it left behind. Economically the Italians had no special interest on the islands. In 1892 the Italians established the notorious detention camp in Nakura to detain anticolonial Eritreans and others the Italians felt as a threat to their stay in Eritrea. Nakura Island situated west of Dahlak Kebir is a small island where the Italians thought no one detainee could escape to safety alive. If any one tries to flee the prison camp they were definite that they will be grabbed by the notorious sea or eaten by sea animals like shark. Nakura is remembered by Eritreans not only for its being an infamous prison where so many Eritrean heroes were condemned to suffer but also by some gallant nationals like Osman Bure who successfully escaped from prison to safety. There are rooms underground, in this scorching heat and long nails protruding on both sides of the tiny wall that the prisoner could not rest on either side. There were numerous chains too. Nakura as a strategically important place had caught also the attention of the Ethiopian regimes and Soviet Union during their presence there on the side of the Military regime of Ethiopia. The Soviets in an attempt to reverse the advance of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Fighters used the island for harboring their war ships and for firing heavy artillery to Massawa and its surrounding. Their attempt was, however, to no avail for the advance of the EPLF fighters was so determined that no force was able to reverse it. The sunken war ships of the Italians and the Soviets are still in the waters of Nakura Island, probably, becoming an alternative of coral reef for the fishes in the area.
The New Year has just started and it’s another year where one makes a resolution or plans their next project or travel destination of the year. Indeed, traveling! Anyone curious to discover a yet discovered tourist hotspot will be surprised and won’t regret the choice to decide to travel to Eritrea. Yes, I am talking about this young nation with the usual international press and its exaggerated facts depicting a negative image of the people and country. Nonetheless, Eritrea is full of treasures, between its people, the hospitality, the various landscapes and breathtaking views, the architecture, the history and archeology, the cultural diversity and its untouched sea coastline and islands. What else can one ask for, right? Indeed, recently the country has seen the picking up of tourism thanks to the efforts to add Eritrea and specifically Asmara into the UNESCO World Heritage list as well as multiplied historical and archeological findings for the delight of international scholars and researchers. Besides, there is a growing desire for new adventure and people are looking to travel while ensuring their safety. As such, Eritrea is an ideal destination. Thus, while I was walking home one early evening these past days, I started thinking of how huge Eritrea’s potential is and how simple things, we, Eritreans take for granted but from the eyes of the foreigner, what we may take as simple is actually full of richness and uniqueness. Surely, once one travels outside of Eritrea, they can realize the immense potential and wealth the country and people possess. In today’s issue, hence, I am going to give some hints and reasons why your next destination for 2017 should be Eritrea. Just close your eyes and imagine for a second. You are embarking on a flight to Asmara International Airport, the plane is full of young and elder Eritreans and visitors travelling to Eritrea. You board and notice that some people greet each other in surprise, long lost friends from the diaspora meeting again, youngsters looking at each other timidly and perhaps starting a next romance during their vacation while kids can’t wait to see their grandma’s and grandpa’s again. Sooner than expected, you finally reach the destination. Departing the plane, you can smell the fresh air of the city located at more than 2000m above sea level. Passing by the customs, you see from far, people trying to see the arrival of their closed ones with impatience and you hear “yes, it’s him, it’s her…there she is, finally, elelelelel!” followed by hugs and laughter although it’s about 4 in the morning. After a few hours of sleep, you are awaken by the smell of traditional coffee and you can hear your hosts or family whispering not to wake you up. You instantly forget that you only slept a couple of hours and you go and greet them again and you are just in time for the first sip of coffee, named awel, some popcorn, himbasha and a breakfast made of beans known as ful or kitcha fitfit (bread made of cereals and spices) to accompany your coffee. It is the time to catch up, laugh and enjoy the traditional coffee ceremony while the sun is shining in Asmara and you can hear kids playing in the neighborhood. After a few hours at home, time to get out and walk around the city of Asmara. A city built at the plateau located in high altitude and at the beginning, you may be out of breath but quickly your body will get used to this air and before you realize it, you will be back in shape! Going through the streets of downtown, looking at the different houses and their unique architecture depicting different period of Eritrea and the creativity of Italian architecture coming at different times. The history behind the foundation of Asmara is due to women of four villages whom decided to unify by setting one common church, the actual St. Mary’s Orthodox Church known as Enda Mariam, against the brigadiers. In fact the noun Asmara comes from the female plural verb of Asmera-Mismar literally meaning “they accomplished”. The very first neighborhood of Asmara is Arbate Asmara (meaning Four Asmara) on top of a hill in the Northeastern part of the city. It is time to take a break for a macchiato and a pastry at one of the longstanding cafes such as Bar Vittoria down town before heading to the market areas and the recycling treasure of Medeber, a manufacturing and market center standing tall since 1900 and place where workers manage to create new items out of metal or wood materials. The various and vast number of workers combined with basic production facilities in use and the incredible resourcefulness makes it a ‘Must See’ to tourists. Fervent of natural spices such as ginger or tea spices will find their treasures at the vegetable and fruit market or by the Edaga lekha where on one side you will see various spices and on the other side you can buy your favorite clay pot, handicrafts or little souvenirs illustrating Eritrean culture. Many would also like some vintage items or second hands things as it has been becoming a fashionable thing in many parts of the world. So why not take your own unique vintage thing from Edaga Harradj before visiting the famous St Mary’s Orthodox Church, locally named Enda Mariam. The imposing church was built on top of a hill and can be seen from almost all parts of the city. Built of red bricks with its large towers on each side while you can observe Byzantine paintings of angels and religious icons inside the church. The church features nine masses each month, on Sundays as well as for each Saint’s day/month. As the tradition dictates, visitors take off their shoes before entering the church while women cover their head and stand on the right side of the church and men on the left. While standing by the church you will notice that both the mosque, the cathedral and the St. Mary Church can all be taken into one picture. Indeed, close by the Orthodox Church, you will pass by the main mosque in Asmara, just few meters away from the Independence Avenue. The Jamei al Kulafa, Al Rashedin Mosque was built in 1938 during the colonial period. The mosque features a large square in front of it for the delight of the faithful inhabitants while Arabic script decorates the inside. Walking through the Independence Avenue and passing through the palm tree lining the large boulevard, young couples hold hands and chat, elders gather together and sit on one of the benches on the side of the street. Without realizing it, you’re already in front of the commonly known Asmara Cathedral and its imposing stairs and tower calling for the mass every Sundays in three different slots, Tigrinya mass, the Italian and the English for the delight of its faithful. Already walking around the capital city of Eritrea, you will notice how clean the streets are and how elegant the dwellers are. In fact, what makes Asmara unique is the cleanliness thanks to those who clean the streets every morning. Also, the use of plastic and unrecyclable material has been banned from the country in early 2000s. Hence, as the rest of the country, Asmara is blessed by clean roads and fresh air coming from the trees. The walk continues while arriving face to face with one of the Art Deco wonders of the city, Cinema Asmara. The Cinema, built on Independence Avenue with series of stairs on both side joining the cinema and its architecture, is a place to sip some tea while enjoying the view to downtown. For the lucky ones, there may be a cultural performance inside the cinema, adorned with its well-maintained décor and delightful painting on its roof reflecting Italian opera time. In our next issue, we move outside of Asmara and uncover other wonders.
In our last issue, we were immersed in the daily life of Asmara starting from the early morning hours going through the day. In today’s Eritrea Profile, we’ll discover what evenings in Asmara have to offer. We’ll also take a look at other destinations in Eritrea. As the evening approaches in Asmara, the city gets busier with people leaving their workplaces, coffee places are full, the red buses and yellow taxis are taking over the streets of the capital. Internet cafés are delighted to see their clients queuing to use their networks. The evening hours are known to be the time for “passegiata,” or in other words, an unhurried, relaxed stroll to see and to be seen, which is a tradition to be shared by all generations of Asmarinos without exception. After spending the day at the city center, one cannot pass overlooking the numerous photo studios featuring huge photos of newlyweds, fashion celebrities and kids on their display windows. How about taking a photo souvenir and let yourself play the role of a model to delight one of the many photographers in town? While the weather becomes chilly by the end of the day, it is time for dinner. Plenty of restaurants respond to anyone’s taste, places such as Coco Restaurant in Godaif or Al Sicomoro in Tiravolo for those comfort-seeking customers, Spaghetti House for a delicious pizza with friends or family, Laza or Napoli restaurants and their fairer prices. For fans of traditional dishes, a tour to Ghidei Santa Antonio restaurant would be great for an evening of relaxation. Ghidei: a cozy house where, the owner, manages to make it unique through her unique settings featuring photos and souvenirs illustrating Eritrean history and culture while enjoying a traditional meal and drinking a homemade Mies, a drink made out of honey. You may also want to try a very local meal typically shared by youngsters and a less costly meal known as ‘Fata’ at Modern Café, for example, and so many other places in the city. Fervent of nightlife will also enjoy one of the many bars and lounges available in the city, Dina Hotel and its vintage decoration, Zara Bar and Lounge or perhaps Admas Lounge and its beautifully decorated terrace or one of the local bars located in all corner of town. Alternatively, one may choose a more typically Asmara night at one of the many piano bars where Asmara Beer is served to accompany the music. Indeed, piano bars are a longstanding tradition in Eritrea’s nightlife. Starting around 9pm usually, places like Hakose, Hiwinet or Sunshine are always calling present where famous and less famous singers and musicians sing old jazzy Eritrean songs or English ones to please their audience. Often the public will join singers by singing in unison and cheers them by leaving them a banknote on the artists’ forehead. Those willing to exercise their dancing skills will enjoy a night out at one of the clubs featuring live bands where popular artists of the day perform hit songs throughout the night. Given the interplay of the kirar, keyboard, guitar and saxophone, the live band is commonly loved by music fans while others may enjoy the beats played by one of the nightclub DJs in town. Time to go home and get one of the yellow cabs. Quickly, you’ll notice how safe is city is even at the latest hours of night. Late-nighters, you’ll be ashamed to see women and men in their netsela rushing to go to church! No time to rest after looking at the wonders of Asmara, as its time to take the serpentine road towards the Port City of Massawa! Given the early morning hours, the mild breeze and the fog covering the landscape, one may feel as though they’re on top of the world. All the while, village dwellers living by the roadside of Durfo wave their hands to greet those passing by while youngsters sell their freshly cultivated beles, or otherwise known as prickly pears. Passing through villages and valleys of houses in white, green or yellow and the indefinite horizon of mountains along the 2000-meter descent, you eventually arrive at the town of Ghindae’. There one may choose to take sip of Areqi, a local anise-based alcohol known traditionally to prevent the negative symptoms of rapid climate change while passing through three seasons in a lapsed time of about two hours. Those less willing to try some Areqi can always have a fresh juice made of guava, mango, papaya or whatever fruit is in season. The road continues and you start feeling the heat of the seaside. Soon enough you’re passing Gahtelay and may decide to take a turn along a dirt road and go to the secluded hot spring of Mai Wuiy, traditionally known for its therapeutic benefits and curing rheumatism and other diseases as local inhabitants explain to visitors. At the town of Gahtelay, you will see a line of tea houses on the roadside interrupted by competing lines of watermelons where visitors usually take the time purchase the two commodities, with watermelons often being eaten on the beaches of Massawa. “Welcome to Massawa” reads a banner at the city entrance of the more than 1,500 year-old port city of Eritrea. Indeed, the strategic location of Massawa has put the port at the mercy of invaders and traders. Historically, it has been a transitory passage for people as well as a treasure for tourists looking for calm and an untouched sea life living along the 350 islands of the Dahlak Archipelago. The archeological sites are also part of the many attractions possible at the seaport and, in fact, archeological excavations are being carried out at the moment in an attempt to uncover the ancient port of Adulis, which is known to be the point of passage and a main trading port linking the Arabian Peninsula to the African continent. While walking around the city with a bottle of water in your hands, sunglasses and hat on, you will be ready to visit the old town, an untouched treasure reflecting traces of the past through its architecture and remains. Ancient coral buildings and arcades reflecting the Ottoman Empire will take you back in time. One can choose accommodations that include renting houses or staying at hotels like Central, Red Sea, Seghen, the renowned Dahlak Palace Hotel or the hotel at the Gurgusum beach resort. One’s choice of hotel responds to a number of different tastes, helping to make one’s stay unforgettable. You will rush out again to continue visiting the old part of the port city. Indeed, the old town featured different periods of time significant in Eritrean history and you will be immersed in those epochs as soon as you enter the city. The traces left by the bullets of the war, the ruins are what gives a feeling of a ghost town while the dwellers manage to revive it by opening up bars, restaurants or shops. Oh, the food! You will probably be hungry after this road trip and you won’t be disappointed by the freshly cooked fish from the Red Sea coming on a grilled plate, locally calling it tchaq’-tchaq’, because of the sizzling noise it makes! An Asmara beer will likely accompany many tourists’ meals along the seaside to cool the body under the scorching heat of Massawa. Massawa, once called the ‘Pearl of the Red Sea’ is a reflection of its peacefulness which existed already during ancient history as a chosen place of refuge by many foreigners. In fact, it is said that Prophet Mohammed’s companions, the Sahaba, took the route to Massawa fleeing persecution in the sixth century A.D. and settled at Ressi Medri, the actual center of the Massawa harbor and considered a sacred site. The site features the oldest mosque in Africa, the Sahaba mosque, which is located by the Free Zone port. Besides this, in the city center, which is quiet and peaceful there are several markets great to pick some souvenirs and also hang out while sightseeing the art deco features of the buildings such as the carved wooden doors, shutters and balconies, the old caved market and the old Italian bank by the entrance to the port. For the faithful, Massawa hosts the annual worship of Saint Mary, welcoming thousands of pilgrims from all over the country. One more event that sees the overflowing of visitors is the celebration of the liberation of Massawa in each year on February 10th, in remembrance of the 1990 Fenkil Operation, which was a seminal historical event on the path towards independence a year later. The unpolluted sea shores are also a great sight of attraction. Above all though, you will definitely fall for the charm and warmhearted reception by local Massawinos. You may also revel in the experience of swimming in turquoise-colored seas while enjoying the unpolluted landscape and the numerous wild birds and islands. Then comes the islands—the favorite part of your trip down to the seaside. Scuba-diving lovers will enjoy a diving session with professionals of the city, who often delight in taking tourists to discover the underwater wildlife, which continues to be under conservation. While there are many developments with the expansion of the free zone or the building of refrigerators and fishing factories, preserving the environment continues to be a priority alongside development. Without realizing it, you are already on a boat that has you passing through a seemingly endless string of islands, small and big in size. Some of the islands contain rare archeological remains such as Green Island, locally known as Sheikh Seid Islands. Before long, one may reach 90-square km island of Dahlak Kebir, the largest along the archipelago where the Afar and Dahlaki inhabitants live. An island full of treasure and remains of the past, traders and settlers often chose it as their place of living with a direct linkage to the port of Adulis. The amazing 365 water points are still well conserved and used to serve each day of the year while remains of ancient necropolis, tombstones with Kufic scripts for the delight of history lovers. Time for a traditional meal with the host community of the island made of fish, flat breads and rice while enjoying a chat before getting on board of the boat back to the port city. After enjoying the heat, the seaside, the food and historical sites, there are still many other treasures Eritrea has to offer for anyone visiting the country this year. In the third part in our series, I will take you to other areas of the country and give you yet additional reasons travel to Eritrea this year.
Innovation is an adventure that people individually and collectively look for, enabling them to diversify activities. Through innovation, activities become easier than their old ways of functioning. It brings simplicity and takes manufacturing and other industries into specialization. This fact is witnessed in the printing press industry. When talking about printing history, you can only imagine how intricate it was when you heard from the workers within the production of this field. You may take this newspaper in your hand as an ordinary task performed, since it reached your hands just with a couple of Nakfas. Yet, it is only possible to know how tedious and challenging this job was when noting the monotype system or letter press method— where every letter in metal form is collected and retyped to create pages of newspapers, books and other sorts of reading. This issue is worth covering perhaps more than any other newspaper related issue. To know more about this topic, your opportunity cost is zero in relation to how impressive the Printing Press is in Eritrea. However, instead of jumping straight to Sabur Printing Press (SPS), it is quite right to look back and relate to some historical facts and share with you how I was personally impressed by SPS. Printing as the most crucial means of mass communication has evolved for centuries and inspired a social revolution that is still in progress. Just before the 2nd century, Chinese put their first hands on it before anyone else did. Still, the expansion was not popularized to the rest of the world. Later, the Germans emerged with a pioneer, Johannes Gutenberg who solved the problem of molding type in 1440 and hence invented the first printing press in history. The trend of printing likewise developed and spread through Europe and began to replace hand- printed texts for a wider audience. The introduction of the lithography system was made possible by the end of 18th century. This process of chemical printing quickly popularized itself throughout Europe since it enabled artists to produce multiple copies of freehand drawings. All in all, most important and versatile printing process today is lithography and this has substituted all other forms of printing. The first printing press in the Horn of Africa was in Eritrea in 1863, principally through the arrival of the Turkish and before Italians set foot in the country. The foundation of printing is about 150 years old. The Italian company Franccescanna Printing Press was one of the oldest printing press firms launched in 1911 and is still functioning today in Asmara. Initially, the process of printing in Eritrea was introduced by an Italian Bishop, Lughi Bianchier from the Catholic Lazarist order, for the purpose of imprinting spiritual scriptures. In the subsequent years, the Italian regime manipulated and used this opportunity to print military papers and documents. The printing press failed under the administration of British with the defeat of Italians in 1941. All the printing firms in Eritrea were confiscated by the British. They remained under it and eventually returned to Italian government when the British left Eritrea. Later on, the Italian government sold the firms to private owners. The printing firms then consolidated into one name, EI Poligraphico, until they were nationalized by the Ethiopian Derg regime in January 1975. In 1984, the name El Poligraphico was changed into Adulis Printing Press. Actually, the history of the printing press in Eritrea goes far beyond this. The Eritrean People Liberation Front (EPLF) started printing using typewriters and stencils in early 1970s and developed lithography printing by the late 70s. After independence, the EPLF printing workshop integrated with the printing enterprises formerly administered by Ethiopia. Together, the two printing enterprises were administered under a common name, Adulis Printing Press. Experienced manpower and the introduction of new equipment raised the fame of this company. By 1997 then, under the privatization policy of the government, Adulis Printing Press was transferred to Hidri Trust Fund and currently it is playing an exquisite role in the national printing, going under the name Sabur Printing Services (SPS). This private limited company was established in 1997, through the purchase and consolidation of previously government-owned printing presses. In 1998, SPS relocated to a new site. The factory is stationed in a compound around 36,000 m2 (the largest printing plant in Eritrea). SPS has come a long way and upgraded its human resource capacity to meet the needs of new technology to professionalize the country’s printing industry and widen its market share for its printed materials. By now, SPS follows a digital pre-press, a modern bindery and the most productive color offset and web press in the country. The link with international and national stakeholders remains imminent for the company to equip itself with a quality standard and reliable supply. It is put straight forward in the documents of the SPS that the company proudly declares its strict policies against corruption and toward investor oversight, which helps the company not only have cost effective raw materials but also become free of corruption that may be seen in the raw materials market. Sabur Printing Service additionally participates in international bids with suppliers and printing firms. Up until early 90’s, the company (like other printing firms) followed the letter-pressing method but through time the lithography system was introduced and the printing process found itself quicker and better with metal plates. In the last ten years Sabur managed to equip its production unit with modern machines changing its printing procedures from analog to digital. When compared to the early days, the General Manager of the company Mr. Mussie Tesfamariam stated that Sabur has earned a vast amount of experience in all these past years. Most of all, the eloquent and disciplined employees under it remain the secret to the strong foundation of the company. They keep pace with the existing technology and new procedures. Around 274 employees are deployed in the factory fulfilling different tasks performed in the pre-press, press and binding departments. The range of employees’ in age stretches from youngsters to workers with a sixty years of experience. 70% of the workforce is covered by the youth. To upgrade the skills of employees, the company has organized an on-job training session for more than eighty workers over the last four years, which goes for a year long. As there is no educational curriculum that particularly focuses on the field of printing, the company organizes and prepared a syllabus to train its own employees. This practically helps the employees cope with the rapidly changing technological advancements and hence a good productivity. At the moment the human resource department of the company puts a least of 12+ qualification as a requirement for hiring new employees because an employee has to minimally know how to deal with a computer and operate it. The company strives for quality output and specialization. Verily, the scope of printing is wide yet SPS momentarily is focusing on paper printing. This multi-printing press company has supporting divisions that feed directly to the production unit. The administration, finance, purchasing, training and maintenance divisions can be listed out. The company follows a line processing method of production. The work of printing in the olden days was troublesome and separately performed (typed first in pre-press, leaving spaces for photos). This is unlike today’s printing press procedures where everything related to design and layout is much more well-organized by pre-press departments and printing is done without much hardships thanks to computer networks. This enables the company reply to its orders quickly. Ten thousands of newspaper are printed in a night. The machines inside Sabur are comprehensive such that they are old enough to work with the old system and new enough to match the existing technology. The Computer to Film (CTF, old) and Computer to Plate (CTP, existing) are the procedures that need to be followed for a final published paper outcome. The machines specific tasks include packing, binding as well as printing. 90% of the machines in SPS are from Germany’s HEIDELBERG. The Agfa brand pre-press film plates machines are from Belgium. Meanwhile the General Manager noted that raw materials are fully imported. A strong 40-year relationship is developed with the suppliers, so no problem on parts and raw materials access, he adds. The source for paper is from Chinese companies. The byproducts from these machines are recommended to be recycled by receiving companies, thereby the environment is put into consideration. This printing service company works mainly on publishing orders on educational and various books, daily newspapers, receipts, brochures, magazines, different company’s forms, bank notes, checks and bills. The jobs inside the production are categorized as books, newspaper and commercial jobs. Nowadays printing firms in the world follow the efficient Computer to Printer (CTP advanced) procedure, which SPS is looking forward to introduce in order to stay current with world standards. Sabur Printing Service executives claim their company can be expanded and turn competitive with world printing companies since it owns latest machineries, technology, fine procedures and time-efficient employees. In the production site it has an A0 (eight times A4 size) and B0 sizes of printing machines. The company can print 1.5 up to 2 million orders of books in a year by the capacity it holds right now. In the old days, it was only in 10 thousands. Annually, SPS receives three to four million educational book orders. In the last year alone, it has signed an order of a sixty million books sponsored by the Global Fund. Recently the company acquired a new pre-press machine (Avalon) that uses a thermal plate (a chemical-free plate), which significantly and positively contributes to the health of the employees who are directly engaged with chemical plates. Through time, it will become harder and harder for the company to get and afford the chemicals it is using right now so being in line with the chemical free plates is a good option. In the pre-press software side, the company uses latest software to design and layout scripts and photos. The field of printing triggers owners to persistently follow technological trends or otherwise declare bankruptcy as there is no other option in this industry. For the health insurance case, it is secure that on every three days all employees are checked by a visiting special doctor. In the olden days, printing was performed in dark rooms just like photography systems. These days thanks to technology it is possible to work out in light and chemical-free plates, providing greater comfort to employees. The General Manager Mr. Mussie, when asked about challenges that the company might face, he mentioned keeping up with technology to stay current but also indicated that the complexity of the business requires deep understanding and care about the dynamic industry. Another possible challenge foreseen is the international companies monopolizing supplies (for retailing and maintenance purposes) through their agents. Nonetheless, the experience gained over the previous two decades is incredible, starting from mindsets, staff capacity development and awareness among the working society (youth want to join the industry since it is a technology-based industry). The sophistication of technology on one side and the companies that consume papers on the other, the printing press industry plays a more critical role moving forward. According to Mr. Mussie, Sabur multi-printing press company is working to further specialize. Global competition is driving this specialization. SPS is looking forward to expand to regional markets and to further professionalize its products. The aim is to keep its quality standards high, improve close relations with clients and keep overall cost of production to a minimum. SPS plan to make long term investments in developing its work force and upgrading its production equipment.
|Coordinates:||15.6085 N 39.4748 E|
|No:||414 (list of all attractions)|
|Category:||Cities and towns, Ancient cities and towns|
|Values:||Architecture, History, Archaeology, Visual|
|Address:||Africa, Eritrea, Northern Red Sea region, centre of Massawa, mainly Batse and Tualud islands|
|Name in Ge’ez:||ምጽዋዕ|
|Founded:||As a village – since the first centuries AD|
|Period of flourishing:||The late 16th century, the late 19th century|
|Area:||Roughly 90 ha. Old City on Batse Island – 32 ha, Italian built city on Tualud island – 58 ha.|
Urban fabricMassawa has two historical districts – each on its own island. The oldest and most valuable is the Old City on Batse (Massawa) Island: a coral island without fresh water sources, covered with valuable Arabic and Ottoman architecture. 440 m long causeway leads to the other part of historical city – Taulud Island. This island was uninhabited until the late 19th century, when Italians started construction here. This island is connected to the mainland with 1030 m long causeway.
The most valuable buildings in Massawa are:
- Shrine of Sahaba – Old City. Small shrine in the site, where, according to legends, the followers of prophet landed in 615 AD. It is believed that this shrine was built back in those times – thus it could be the oldest constructed Islamic shrine in the world, but this is not proved.
- Sheikh Hanafi Mosque – Old City. The oldest mosque in Eritrea, built in the 15th century AD.
- Bazaar – Old City. Fine Ottoman building.
- Imperial Palace – Taulud. Ornate building constructed for French consul Werner Munzinger in 1872 – 1874. Now in ruins.
- Banco d’Italia – Taulud. Gorgeous building, constructed in the 1920s. Those who live in Massawa, experience very hot, humid climate. Average mean temperature here is 29.7 °C, average temperature in July is 35 °C.
HISTORYThe beginnings of Massawa are shrouded in millenia long past. It is known that in the times of Axumite Empire (first centuries AD) here was small village, which was overshadowed by Adulis port which was located some 50 km to the south. Now Adulis is in ruins. Since its establishment Massawa was developed as a trade city and it has served for multiple owners.
Before OttomansUmayyad Caliphate captured the settlement after the fall of Axum in 702 – 750 AD. In those times the city was named Bade (or Base) in Arabic writings. Local Beja people formed their kingdom in 740 AD and soon took over Massawa and ruled it until the 14th century, when another regional power – Medri Bahri Kingdom rised. This kingdom took control of Massawa and its area in several time periods between the 14th and 19th century. Once more local power – Balaw – also ruled the town for several periods in the 12th – 15th century AD. In their time here was built the oldest mosque in Eritrea – Sheikh Hanafi Mosque and several more Islamic buildings. In this time Venetian merchants frequented here too.
Ottoman timeOttoman general Özdemir Pasha captured Medri Bahri kingdom and Massawa city in 1557, outmaneuvering Portuguese. Initially Massawa became the capital of Habesh Eyalet – large territorial unit along both coasts of Red Sea, but soon the capital was moved to Jeddah in present day Saudi Arabia. Main benefits from the newly acquired territory were slaves, food, iron and also pearls, especially in Dahlak Archieplago not far from Massawa. Ottomans never acquired much power on the mainland of present day Eritrea but retained control over Massawa, thus controlling trade in this region. This area did not bring much profit and interest in it decreased. Gradually, at the end of the 16th century the Ottoman influence in this part of Red Sea decreased. Control over Massawa and its surroundings was handed over to Balaw who were made answerable to Ottomans. This was the time when the old town of Massawa was built – here were constructed fine buildings in Ottoman style. Dry coral was used for walls, roof and foundation, there was imported wood for beams, window shutters, balconies. These old buildings persist up to this day, withstanding time, earthquakes, bombardment and neglect.
Modern timesEgypt took over Massawa with Ottoman consent in the 19th century. In the end of the 19th century started the dominance of Europeans. British took over the control of this area and in 1885 handed over the city to Italians. Italians had great plans for this city. They made it a capital of Eritrea and built modern port. Massawa evolved into a multinational trade city. Main developments took place outside the Old City, on Taulud island and mainland. In 1897 the capital was moved to Asmara and development of Massawa slowed down. In 1921 the city was destroyed by Massawa earthquake and port recovered only in 1928, further slowing down the ambitious development of Italian colony. Nevertheless Massawa evolved into the largest and safest port on the east coast of Africa. In 1938 there was started an ambitious plan for the development of very modern port city. City and port suffered heavily during the World War II, sunken Italian and German ships blocked the port. After the war Eritrea entered into a federation with Ethiopia and landlocked Ethiopia gained access to the sea. Later Ethiopia forcibly annexed Eritrea, provoking long lasting civil war. During this war the port of Massawa did not operate. City was bombed by Ethiopians in 1990, creating much damage which is not fully repaired up to this day. Further bombardment took place in 1998 – 2000. Now Massawa is the main port city of the nation of Eritrea, the second largest country in the country. Source : >> Wondermondo
Uncovering Veils of Honeymoons Part I| by Semir Seid | Tribes in the world exhibit and honor their respective cultural habits which they keenly are devoted to exercise ordinarily. Someway, when people from other nations observe disciplines that are different from theirs, they find themselves surprised and inquire more about the character. Merely, it is because, culture is a way of life as a whole. For this edition of culture and Arts, it is an honor to disclose the interesting and surprising honeymoon styles Eritrean ethnic groups demonstrate. The existing season is the busiest marriage and honeymoon season of the year. The usual and widespread honeymoon most people are familiar with in the case of Eritrea is that of the Tigrinya ethnic group. The treatment for the newlywed pair is exceptional; the titles of the newlyweds becomes my lord and my lady for the entire honeymoon. Everything in the house is made a priority for them and are served by a royal treatment. In my today’s issue however, I focused on the rest of Eritrea’s ethnic groups, and I found it fascinating!
The Saho in ‘Adi Are’…A special name for a honeymoon period in this tribe is Adi Are. Only seven days are the staying for the newlywed and friends. The Arsew (best man) for the marriage has to be a relative and is selected from a number of men while they all put their sticks on the ground. The chosen one is then the best man for the groom for the seven honeymoon days and another lady from family (either sister of the groom or close relative) for the bride. After the seven days of staying, the Arsew mentions three terms, the Kladet, Kebero men (drum men), Sibole to take. Kladet are the items brought by the bride for the groom to wear on the neck, while the Sibole is a food container for all types of food prepared by the community and friends not by the groom’s family. Honey and porridge are commonly served in the occasion. The best part is here; the best men and friends go out singing to bring food to the house of the honeymooners. They are culturally authorized to steal from houses of neighbors or even strangers. No stolen family complains since it is a renowned habit of the after wedding. When the seventh day approaches, it is Simbl Edim- this day is the day the best men sprawl. It is a timing for outside activities; playing games while going to the river to wash clothes. On this last night, it is Maesa (get together) event, only youth are gathered to share the stolen items and food from the last six days. They spend the night dancing and playing games named Kiekie, Shadah, La’ele and the best one Ayanta, where they sit and sing to avoid fatigue. The bride stays at her in-law for thirty days. After this, she returns home and enjoys a three to six month stay with her family. The groom now is traditionally expected to visit the house of the bride to fulfill the event of Urba – a period the groom and his best men visit the house to be introduced the mother of the bride, having all his presents, (food and clothes for the family) with him. If he is unable to go there for various reasons, then he needs to send the items to the house. Normally, the bride stays at her parents’ place until she delivers her first baby because her family would only visit their daughter rarely after she moves out with her husband.
Bidawit (Hidareb), simply ‘strange’In this ethnic group, the after marriage process is a bit different. The groom with his best men and the bride with her maid of honor bounce back to their homes. In the tradition of the Bidawit, the groom does not lift his jewels from his neck for seven days. This helps as a sign for the rest of the community to identify him as a groom and devote themselves to invite him with whatever they have (goat, milk), that is served in honor of him. Nonetheless, the couple separate for two years after wedding and stay with their respective families. After two years, the groom asks for a home to settle in with his wife and make a living. Then a new house is built for him. However, another mystery is that the couple are not simply allowed to the new house; rather they are required to pass through some rites and follow some rules. The groom enters the house by night with his friends. Likewise, the bride gets in with her female friends. For the next seven days they enter the house on the dark and sleep on separate rooms, still no chance for them to interact because they also leave the house before sun rise. Right on the seventh day the groom plays ‘wife grabbing game’, while the bride sleeping in the middle of her two or three friends. If the groom wins and properly grabs her, then his best man let him flee from the house with his wife. Afterwards, they can move into their new house together and start their life. But, if he fails to capture her and captures someone else instead and tells him she is not his wife, the bride gets the chance to flee for the night and extra days to spend with friends. Then, if the groom decides to lead his own life both of them need to invest for their living on their sides. Most of the time, such marriages start their formal life after the wife gets pregnant. The hide and seek continues until this time. At the moment due to the dynamic changes in the society and urbanization reasons the culture has been gradually modifying in a way that suits for the people.
Rashaida, the Mobile tribeRashaida people who are mostly Sunni Muslims do not have a permanent residence and settled life. They are nomads. As a matter of fact, nobody expects them to be settled during even festive periods since their lifestyle is mobile. The women are known for their elaborate black and red burqas or cover-ups while the men for their sword dances at ceremonies and gatherings. When a girl from Rashaida feels it is time for her to marry, she unconditionally approaches the man she desires and flirtatiously lifts her veil so that he can see her chin. If he accepts her offer, he must find one hundred camels as a dowry. The eating habit of the women whenever is incredible. They pass food beneath their mask, and even when they sleep they must still remain lightly covered. The mask is removed only when they are alone with their husbands. Since the sexes do not mix freely in Rashaida culture, young men and women have few chances to meet of their own accord. As a result, marriages are usually arranged by families.
Nara, the generous groupIn this group the bride stays four months before she returns her house. Then she is provided with a one month leave from her husband to visit her family. While she returns back she takes Kolo (roasted oat) from her house to her new crib as a gift. Then after, she gets to visit her family’s house for few days once again. While on the return her mother makes an item named Arfi which is a utensil used for keeping fluids. This utensil is just like the item the Tigrinya group uses, which is called Gagut, as a milk container. Inside the four month the bride never gets outside yet she can move after late afternoons. The bride is made to be taken to Hadre—a special spot for her after the wedding day. She doesn’t go groom’s house right away. The next day, by night time, she is taken to the groom’s house by her friends. A relief for the bride comes at the balaklado—a moment the bride starts to move by day time. This moments if the groom’s family wants her, they take her. If not, they leave her with her family. Similar to the Saho ethnic group, she delivers her first baby in her family’s house while the second and following are at the husband’s. At times of special occasions, the bride must be available with the groom. The bride’s family invites the groom by saying “come and drink water”. This time at the house of the bride, the groom leaves some amount of money on the table and the mother of the bride also does the same. He leaves the house without picking up any money from the table. This is done to maintain the relationship between him and the mother-in-law so as not to violate their relationship. A lady is recognized by the piercing she possesses in her nose. Left side piercing is for unmarried and if it is on the right, men get it as she is a married woman. Within a four-month period the bride makes some handicrafts using laka (raffia material). The groom only visits his house at night as he is away for work during the day. After four years they settle down on their own to start a family of their own family. Friends contribute what they can towards the couple’s new house so they can live their life—happily ever after.
by Mela Ghebremedhin | On the eve of 2017, I had the pleasure of having a one-to-one conversation with an Eritrean woman who is living proof that hard work and determination pay off. Her name is Terhas Asefaw Berhe, an inspirational entrepreneur who has worked tirelessly to accomplish her dream by founding her own company, Brand Communications, based in London with offices across Africa with the motto ‘building iconic brands in Africa’. In today’s edition, let’s give you a glimpse of our interesting chat.