« | Home | »

In Asmara

Tags: | |

LRB Eritrea 1

Unesco is currently evaluating Asmara’s bid to be made a World Heritage site. The Eritrean capital’s argument is strong. It lays claim to some of the finest Futurist architecture on earth, built during the period of Italian colonial rule. Many of these buildings – and Asmara’s infrastructure more generally – are threatened by neglect, a resource-poor economy, and the effects of time.

World Heritage status would bring positive attention to a country in need of good press. Western media coverage of Eritrea tends to be flatly negative, sometimes for good reason. The government’s provocative foreign policy hasn’t done the country any favours on the international stage, while its domestic programme of forced conscription raises concerns with human rights organisations and the United Nations. Some, citing the stories of refugees and expats, have labelled Eritrea the ‘North Korea of Africa’, a description at once silly and unfair. Yet no one doubts the harshness of the regime.

Rare positive coverage centres on the capital. Its modernist gems – slightly worn, sometimes abandoned – are remarkable. The Fiat Tagliero, a flamboyant old service station on the main road into town, receives more attention from foreigners than other buildings in Asmara, though it is just one of many remarkable sites. Elegant movie houses, apartment buildings and government offices can be found throughout the downtown area and off the beaten track in other parts of the city. Despite the hardships faced by Eritreans, the markets are busy, and the cafés do a brisk trade.

Comments

  1. Stu Bry says:

    “while its domestic programme of forced conscription raises concerns with human rights organisations and the United Nations”

    That’s quite the understatement.

    https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/eritrea#e9af5a


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • Coldish on Why We Strike: My capacity for sympathy with the concerns of the university staff is tempered by the fact that even after more than 25 years continuous direct part-t...
    • mildly_baffled on Why We Strike: Seems like the financial realities that have raped private sector pension provision in the last decade, are finally catching up with academia - using ...
    • Waseem Yaqoob on Why We Strike: The final salary scheme for university staff was closed in 2011. The USS pension scheme is not funded out of general taxation; it is not a public sect...
    • bidem on Why We Strike: Final salary pension schemes have almost disappeared in the private sector. Basically because they are too expensive. It is inevitable that similar p...
    • Joefarrell on Fischia il vento: The rise of racism and the resurgence of Fascism in Italy is nauseating and worrying, but Italians are justified in complaining that they have had to ...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

Advertisement Advertisement