« | 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

    • semitone on ‘I promise that I will do my best’: I read this post, after a long absence from reading the lrb blog, in my car while my two sons (eight and ten) played strenuous, interesting, complicat...
    • Eli Zaretsky on The Mass Psychology of Trumpism: The Freudian concept of identification is helpful here. Identification is unconscious and is something quite different from imitation. "Willed ignoran...
    • Jeremy Harding on Who killed Maurice Audin?: Who killed Mehdi Ben Barka in 1965? Good question. One of the best answers came from Stephen Smith, in Le Monde in 2001. Smith is an LRB contributor. ...
    • Eli Zaretsky on The Mass Psychology of Trumpism: yes, excellent point, however, there are different ways to constitute a "volk." Trump's followers constitute a volk, and its basis is not the US "volk...
    • heinz suenker on The Mass Psychology of Trumpism: thanks for the idea to bring adorno in - showing his contemporary relevance. I think what has to be added is his idea about the 'volksgemeinschaft' - ...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

Advertisement
Advertisement