3 African Sites Added to UNESCO’s ‘World Heritage’ List

Fredrick Ngugi July 13, 2017

Asmara: A Modernist City of Africa, Eritrea


Asmara city, Eritrea’s capital. Photo credit: World Monuments Fund

Established in the 1890s, the city of Asmara, Eritrea’s capital, used to serve as a military outpost for the Italian colonial power.

It is located at the tip of an escarpment that is both the northwestern edge of the Eritrean highlands and the Great Rift Valley in neighboring Ethiopia.

The city is currently estimated to have a population of more than 800,000 inhabitants and is known for its well-preserved colonial Italian modernist architecture.

After 1935, Asmara underwent a major renovation, applying the Italian rationalist idiom of the time to governmental edifices, residential and commercial buildings, churches, mosques, synagogues, cinemas, and hotels.

The city includes indigenous unplanned neighborhoods of Arbate Asmera and Abbashawel and is a perfect example of early modernist urbanism at the beginning of the 20th century and its application in the African context.

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: July 13, 2017


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