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Eritrea’s capital city is one of those hidden gems that more experienced international travellers know to be one of Africa’s most interesting locations.
Book a flight to Asmara with Qatar Airways, for a chance to join the ranks of those who have discovered the delights of this vibrant and exotic city for themselves. From bustling markets to traditional villages and Italian architecture, a flight to Asmara opens a wealth of once-in-a-lifetime experiences for people who are prepared to take a little detour off the beaten track.
Despite the fact that you’re in Africa, a trip to Asmara reveals a distinctly Italian influence, the remnant of colonial rule from the European mainland during the late 19th and early 20th century. Today, the Italian connection can still be seen in the architecture and layout of the city, and the best example of this continental influence is the former governor’s Palace, which dominates the western end of Harnet Avenue. However, to get a true taste of the history and culture of the city and its people, head for the National Museum, which contains extensive exhibitions on cultural life in Eritrea.
Biet Ghiorghis Zoo and Park offer a welcome break from the heat and dust of the city during your trip to Asmara, while it’s possible to see what traditional rural life was like at the Eritrean highland village of Tselot, approximately 20km from the centre of the city. To discover some of Eritrea’s surprisingly diverse flora and fauna head for the Martyrs National Park, or for a panoramic view of the city climb the narrow stairs of the Gothic Bell Tower at sunset.
People watching is a wonderfully relaxing way to let the sights and sounds of Asmara envelop you. There are dozens of cafés, particularly along Liberation Avenue, a lively, vibrant location where you can simply sit and watch the world go by.
If you want to see the ingenuity of the Eritreans and a very ‘hands on’ approach to recycling, then take a stroll through Medebar Market, where you can watch innovative and industrious artisans take old tin cans from Italy and turn them into coffee pots! The results make the ultimate in quirky momentos of your trip to Asmara.
To explore the Islamic influence on Asmara, a visit to the Great Mosque is well worth your time. Filled with rich examples of rationalist, classical and Islamic art, it’s a peaceful and tranquil oasis in the middle of a busy city.
Eritrean food, like North African cuisine in general, makes extensive use of spices, and consists generally of very hot meat and/or vegetable stews, eaten with an accompaniment of "injera", which is a type of sour-dough pancake or flatbread. Mid-morning you’ll find most locals downing a cup of macchiato, a strong, sweet coffee that is ‘stained’ with a touch of milk froth, but is most definitely not a cappuccino!
If this is your first time travelling to Asmara and you prefer something a little tamer on the palate then there are plenty of Italian restaurants throughout the city, as well as other more generic fast food outlets.
Asmara is a good location to pick up reasonably priced gold and silver jewellery, as well as incense such as Frankincense and Myrrh. Fine gold threads are often spun into embroidered cotton garments, and traditional goat-skin rugs, clay coffee pots and olivewood carvings are also available at the Central Market, which is the main shopping location and also one of the city’s biggest attractions.
It’s best to get there early before the crowds to find some bargains – and be prepared to haggle.
Flights to Asmara with Qatar Airways land at Asmara International Airport.
Visa restrictions for entry into the country will depend on your country of origin, length of stay and whether your trip is for business or pleasure. So before you fly to Asmara please check the visa and passport requirements.
Currency: Nakfa (ERN)
Voltage: 230 V 50 Hz
Plugs: Type C
Language: Tigrinya / Arabic / English
International dialing code: +291