History in Asmara

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imperial palace

imperial palace


Although it would be easy to think of Asmara, the Eritrean capital, solely as an Italian built colonial city, its origins actually reach back some 700 years. Originally, it is said, there were four clans living in the Asmara area on the Kebessa Plateau: the Geza Gurtom, the Geza Shelele, the Geza Serenser and Geza Asmae. Encouraged by their women, the men united the four clans and defeated the bandits who preyed on the area. After the victory, a new name was given to the place, Arbaete Asmara which literally means, in the Tigrinya language, "the four are united." Eventually Arbaete was dropped and it has been called Asmara, though there is still a zone called Arbaete Asmara. Another legend tells that in this region the Queen of Sheba gave birth to the son of Solomon, Menelik I.

Asmara was made the capital city in preference to Massawa by Governor Martini in 1897. It is by far the largest city in Eritrea, with a population of some 400,000. Asmara sits atop (2,350m) the Eritrean highlands on the eastern edge of the escarpment.

Unlike many of the other towns in Eritrea it is relatively undamaged, the Ethiopian forces having fled the city without fighting a full-scale battle at the end of the war. Under thirty years of Ethiopian occupation, the city was allowed to deteriorate, but it still retains its essential beauty and since coming under Eritrean control in 1991 it has been undergoing a rapid improvement in infrastructure, building repairs and repainting.

February 27, 2005 new by dawit
February 28, 2005 change by giorgio

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