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Ressorts and Excusion
Eritrea's capital Asmara was only a small cluster of villages at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1897 the Italian colonial government moved the administration from Massawa. Today, Italian architecture prevails in the city. The magnificent Cathedral (1922), built in the Lombardian style, is not far from a bustling market. Fruit and vegetables, bric-a-brac, spices, used furniture, ceramics, handicrafts and clothes are sold on the stalls. There are a number of churches and mosques which can be visited. Marble from the Carrara quarry was used to build the largest mosque, Khalufa el Rashidin. Gold and silver jewellery is on offer at the nearby market. Palms and colourful bougainvillea line the main avenues. The National Avenue is the major thoroughfare of the city; an ideal place to meet people and enjoy the numerous cafés and bars. The Avenue is also the address for the Government Administrative Centre, the Asmara Theatre (built 1918), the Catholic Cathedral and the Town Hall. The former residence of the colonial rulers, the Ghibi or palace, is used today as the National Museum. The University and the Mai Jahjah Fountain are also interesting. The road from Asmara to Massawa, 105km (65 miles), is both spectacular and beautiful. It descends from 2438m (8000ft) to sea level, with hairpin bends on the escarpment, and magnificent views over the coastal desert strip. It passes the famous Orthodox Monastery of Debre Bizen. Massawa was an important centre in ancient times and remains, to this day, the largest natural deep-water port on the Red Sea. If Asmara is an 'Italian' city, Massawa is 'Turko-Egyptian', reflecting the periods of Ottoman and Egyptian rule from the 16th century to the late 1800s. Dams connect the islands of Batsi and Twalet with the main part of the city. The port and the old town of Batsi were damaged during the civil war but are still impressive. The Iman Hanbeli Mosque escaped damage. Batsi Island is a good area for restaurants, cafés and bars; visitors can take a small boat to Sheikh Said Island (also known as Isola Verde), a favourite picnic spot. Twalet has fine examples of Italian architecture. Here, also, is a badly damaged Ghibi or palace. It was originally built in the 15th century, but has been much altered and restored since then. It was badly damaged in the recent war and is again in need of restoration. The Port Club has a restaurant, a museum, a small library and sporting facilities. North of Massawa is the white sandy beach of Gergussum. It is a good place to sunbathe or swim. From here it is not far to Emberemi, famous for the mausoleums of Sheikh el Amin and Muhammad Ibn Ali. It is an important pilgrimage site. Keren, in the Province of Senhit, is like a miniature Asmara. The Forto was built during the Turkish period. Also of interest are the religious sites of the Tomb of Said Abu Bakr el Mirgani and the Mariam de Arit. Debre Sina, near Elabered on the Asmara–Keren road, is also a noteworthy monastery. The modern city of Asseb in the southeasterly Province of Denkalia has lots of beaches. he Turkish and Egyptian colonial periods left numerous interesting buildings and sites in Agordet (Barka Province). Here is situated the tomb of Said Mustafa wad Hasan. Qohaito, Matera and Rora Habab are also important archaeological sites. The Dahlak Archipelago, consisting of hundreds of islands in the Red Sea near Massawa, is protected as a Marine National Park, but is difficult to achieve access to at present.