By Ibrahim Naffee,
Blessed with natural wonders, Eritrea is a country in the horn of Africa, which still remains a mystery and hidden gem. A former Italian colony, the name of the country originates from the Italian form of the Greek name (Erythraia) meaning the ‘red land.’
The country has a beautiful seacoast, marvelous colonial architecture and an array of archaeological sites that are must for travelers to see.
The numbers of Saudi tourists who visit Eritrea has increased 10 percent in 2012 from the previous year, according to World Agency for Travel and Tourism.
Eritrea has the potential to attract a larger amount of Saudi tourists to enjoy its hotels, beaches and beautiful landscape.
Ali Abdul Aziz, manger of the travel agency said, “Eritrea is a very attractive country located in the horn of Africa. Many Saudis prefer to visit Eritrea and Ethiopia during the summer season, especially since many Arab countries have recently been suffering from political turmoil.”
Eritrea has many cities and hill stations, which attract thousands of tourists every year. Massawa is one of the most favorite touristic destinations in Eritrea. It is located in the east of Eritrea and includes many Islamic-style buildings and historical mosques.
Massawa was once the largest and safest port on the east coast of Africa, however it suffered from terrible damages during the war. Yet it remains the largest natural deep-water port on the Red Sea and is currently being rehabilitated to become a major port and a gateway to the world.
Massawa includes 354 islands spread along a coast of 1,200 kms, including Dahlak, made up of more than 100 islands. Dahlak is the most significant island with deep historical roots. The Arab immigrants early on brought their civilization and knowledge with them to Dahlak, thereby enhancing the Arab heritage in the island.
Massawa and its islands played an important historical role during the Arab migrations, particularly the Islamic ones. They have built many mosques with unique Islamic architectural styles. The most important of the historic mosques is “Abu Hanifa,” which dates back to the beginning of the 13th century.
Coral reefs and pristine coastal lines surround the Islands of Massawa. The swimming and scuba diving in this coastline is legendary for its clear water and breathtaking reefs.
The old town is one of the most significant sights of Massawa, with its distinctive ancient architectural style and authentic restaurants that offer a real taste of Eritrean dishes like “Zegni.” New hotels have emerged across the country offering tourists great and convenient amenities. One such hotel is Serena, located at the city’s entry, with a view of the mountains, a roof top garden and luxurious outdoor café. The rooms are spacious with top quality facilities. The hotel has a decidedly more rural feel that matches the vibe of the surrounding neighborhood.
Hotel Costina on the other hand is located in the center of the city with a more urban appeal, accompanied by trendy cafés and restaurants. Anther recommended hotel is Gergousoum, one of the oldest hotels in the country that has maintained its position and prestige as a longstanding refuge for travelers. For those who want to enjoy aqua adventures or even a relaxing swim, the beach of Gurgusum is the right place to head to. During the summer season it is spotted with delighted tourists.
The best restaurant in Massawa is the Eritrean Restaurant, which serves good and cheap meals, such as pastas, steaks, grilled fish and salads. “Salaam” is a famous fish restaurant in the old quarter of the town, serving large delicious portions of grilled fish for very reasonable prices in an open-air setting.