Since 1991 Asmara the capital city of Eritrea has regained its old glory; with freedom comes peace and sanity and Asmara is a peaceful beautiful old Roman style city yet as young as 30 years young. The palm tree lined wide boulevards; sidewalk cafes and art deco architecture are the land mark of Asmara.
Its pleasant climate makes it one of my most favorite visited cities in the word; no city comes close to its unique convenient petite size yet grand beauty. Formerly one of the most magnificent cities of the Italian colony, built between 1890 and 1940 Asmara is the capital, largest city and the political, cultural, commercial, and industrial center of the nation.
Asmara welcomed by morning sun fully raised, the air misted with the aromas of morning espresso and freshly baked pastries was the right place for “good times”. This has changed with COVID 19. Asmara was on a lock down in early 2020. There are no cafes, restaurants, and entertainment venues; all are on a locked down. Offices, transportation, stores, and auto repairs were all closed. The only thing that was opened was grocery stores to help buy food.
The residents of Asmara have a pastime that is different from most places in the World the “Passeggiata” a decorous, dawdling, laid-back relaxing walk. They walk in the evening hour’s the city boulevards packed with people to see friends and strangers as they enjoy the effervescent pleasant evenings.
All this has changed due to Covid 19. Asmara has reminded me of Washington, DC or any of the major European cities where I used to live and visit. People in DC go to work Monday to Friday. Saturdays are reserved for grocery shopping and Sunday attend church, rest and watch games on TV or in person. Week days there is no time for entertainment people flock home. With no vibrant social activity. Asmara has turned partially that way. People still walk the streets meet few people and small gatherings do happen unlike the normal times.
Prior to Covid-19, it was a culture for Asmarinos that wherever you were be it at work or other runs the day ends with a daily ritual of relaxation “the passeggiata.” The cathedral built in 1923, Jamel al Kulafa, e el Rashedin Mosque built in1938, St. Mary Church built in 1938 are some of the Art Deco of the city. The Sembele neighborhood is one that was built from the 800 to 400 BC, Mai Aba Shawole, still in existence in a very good condition with some additional new developments. Strolling and gazing at these land marks gives one the pleasure of being in an art exhibition.
Numerous memorial and cultural events take place in Asmara. Starting with New Year musical show being formed on the street Liberty Avenue to end at Bahty Meskerm with a grand slam performance by different vocalist and musicians from all nine nationalities.
The distinctive traditional songs, dances, and costumes are the best way to get in touch with your recent past culture and traditions. Religious holidays Edi-Al Mubarak and the Baptism of Christ honored with crowded street of Asmara.
Commemorating with a candlelight the heroines and heroes of Eritrea who sacrificed their life for our freedom Martyrs day. The greatest of all Independence Day celebrated with much fun fair with different activities and crowd coming out evening hours all week long to enjoy the musical performance by different international groups and the different shows conduced at different venue the likes of Cinema Asmara.
This is the Asmara that one loves. The night life in Asmara used to have its own charm with a cosmopolitan feel Asmara was a city of energetic adventure where the combination of commemoration and celebration ensures that every citizen feels that they are having the life of their dream. The big wedding gone, holidays celebrated with small gatherings, funerals with no more than ten people social life in disarray. Covid-19 has brought on us misery and isolation.
Cities all over the world are re-emerging as “gated communities” with lock downs. Each country has its own rules and security, private health clubs, incorporated suburbs all in lock down. China is no different from France as they were both lock down in the same manner. Hotels, offices, malls, and restaurants even the streets were all the same. Tourist bubbles and zoned suburbs were empty there was nothing distinctive that you could say or do. Even social fragmentation where blacks and white; rich and poor live in separate enclaves and towns became meaningless; fortress of office blocks streets were hollow at last Covid-19 made us all equal.
Asmara is a city full of lige with different happenings that surmount and triuph all challenges. Well-mannared, disciplined and law abiding population has done well in keeping Covid-19 from inflicting harm. For that matter the whole Nation of Eritrea. Asmara presently is active; people are back to work, schools started on April first. Mass transport is available. Restaurants and cafes are closed. People misses the morning air with the aromas of espresso and freshly baked pastries. To ease the problem Offices have set up tea rooms with spiced tea that invites you in with their zest and spicy aroma.