ERi-TV መደብ ኒሚጎዕ: How Did Dbarwa/ድባርዋ Get Its Name
Debarwa (Tigrinya: ድባርዋ Tigrinya pronunciation: [dɨbarwa]) is a market town in central Eritrea. It is situated about 25 kilometers south of the capital Asmara, and has a population of about 25,000 inhabitants. It is the capital of the Debarwa district (Tsilima) in the Debub (“Southern”) administrative region (one of five in Eritrea).
Debarwa was formerly the capital of an ancient Kingdom named Medri Bahri, which roughly translates as Land of the Sea. It was ruled by the Bahr Negus (King of the Sea). The Portuguese expedition under Cristóvão da Gama spent the rainy season of 1542 in Debarwa as the guests of the Bahr Negus. The Ottomans invaded part of Medri Bahri in 1557, and for several decades struggled for control over the local population and their Ethiopian neighbors. By the time everything settled, the Ottomans were confined to Suakin, Massawa, Hergigo and the immediate hinterlands, but at times their raids would reach into Bogos, Hamasien and Habab districts of Eritrea.
The town was hard hit by a typhus epidemic in 1893, which followed the misery of the Great Famine (1888-1892). A French visitor described Debarwa as “decimated”, and all that was left of the once prosperous town were “a few piles of stones, an almost ruined church, and a few wretched hovels”.