Tag Archives: Asmara

(Interview) // ‘Asmara is a City With a Soul’

Asmara is a City With a Soul
OCHA’s Deputy Director for Eastern and Sothern Africa, Mrs. Wofaa Elfadil Saeed, was in Eritrea for a working visit. Her impression follows.


OCHA (the office for coordination for the humanitarian affairs) is part of the UN Secretariat responsible for coordinating humanitarian entities to give required responses to needs. “Under the General Assembly resolution, 46/182 of December 1991 OCHA coordinates humanitarian actions to ensure crisis-affected people receive the assistance and protection they need.

In Eritrea, OCHA works alongside the UN Country Team to assist projects based on the Eritrean Government’s priorities, leverage international support and help coordinate aid towards vulnerable communities.”

OCHA’s Deputy Director for Eastern and Sothern Africa, Mrs. Wofaa Elfadil Saeed, was in Eritrea for a work visit. Her impression follows.

Q : Thank you for your time. How was your time in Eritrea?

Thank you so much. I stayed in Asmara for three days. It is my first time here in Eritrea and I believe Asmara is a city with a soul. I work for OCHA, and I came here on a working visit to meet my colleagues working in the Asmara office. I am based in New York and I am responsible for supporting our work in Eastern and Southern Africa. My visit’s objective was to understand our work progress and see what we can do to make our work more effectively in order to make a difference for the people.

During my stay, I met my UN colleagues as well as partners from the Government of Eritrea. I had very open and constructive discussions with several UN agencies, GoE ministries, and local stakeholders. One of my takeaways from Eritrea would be the positive collaboration the United Nations Country Team has with the Government of Eritrea.

Q : What did you notice outside the discussion you’ve held with your colleagues and officials from the Eritrean Government offices? You visited the Akria Community Hospital for instance.

On my last day, I visited a Community Hospital. I am an African myself, a Sudanese, and I have visited several places in the region and I must say that this was one of the most impressive community health centers I have ever seen.

I left the health center feeling very inspired and very encouraged. I noticed that the health center was giving service to a large number of beneficiaries. This obviously shows that this place is doing its job precisely by providing service to many because sometimes you find empty health centers that do not provide good service.

Moreover, what impressed me even further is that there were a big number of women and children amongst the beneficiaries. Immunization service, vaccination service, counseling for pregnant women and other services were being provided in every room of the health center. I had a chance to speak to young professionals there and I was amazed by the gender mix.

One of the things I really appreciate here in Eritrea is that great attention is paid to issues of women and girls. In my meeting with the Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Mrs. Leul Ghabreab, I realized that there is a special focus on the issues of girls and women as well as vulnerable members of the society.

Furthermore, the work there is very well organized. The health center was very clean. I told the staff I met there a common saying in Sudan which is used to express the cleanliness of something. People, it is so clean you’d eat from it. One more thing that impressed me most is the large number of young professionals working there. They are coordinated, dedicated and motivated to their profession.

Q : What are the tasks of OCHA in Eritrea and which government institution does it work with?

Our office in Eritrea is a coordinating office and we don’t implement things on our own. We work specifically to support humanitarian affairs. We are a small supporting team. Also, we don’t have one line of cooperation; we work with different ministries. We monitor the needs and what has been done in order to address them.

Therefore, we work in line with the rest of the UN agencies and collaborate with different GoE ministries. As I have already said, the spirit of collaboration is one to praise. This why there are many projects being implemented and making a difference for the people.

Q : You speak of ‘good collaboration’ between the UN Country Team and the Government of Eritrea. Could you please elaborate that further?

I believe there are open discussions between the UN Country Team, GoE ministries, and stakeholders. For us, it is very important that we match what we do with government priorities. The positive collaboration has resulted in making a big difference for the people. I noticed that the support that is being provided and the positive collaboration with the Eritrean Government is making a big difference for the people.

I also learned that the implementation of the projects mapped out is really making a big impact. I learned that they are cost effective and the results are visible and very much encouraging.

Q : How did your meeting with senior Eritrean officials go?

I am very thankful for their time and the opportunity I had to hold open discussions with them. I think one message that has come through in my several meetings with senior government officials is the need for us at the UN to be having an integrated approach. They would like to see the UN agencies work with an integrated approach.

Q : Do you mean within the composition of the UN?

Yes, there are several UN agencies operating in Eritrea and so they would like us to improve how we are integrating our responses to support the nation’s priorities. I see the point. It is important for us to integrate our efforts in order to maximize our input. On the government’s side, they suggested that their work would be coordinated by the Ministry of National Development.

Q : What will be the next step for your office in Eritrea?

Because of our good collaboration we need to scale up our tasks and our responses. We also had discussions on supporting our resource mobilization efforts. I was very encouraged because even from the meetings I had with different government officials, I realized that there is a clear message to focus on the most vulnerable members of the society and scale up our undertakings.

Q : Is there anything you would like to say at the end?

I would like to thank the people I have met for their warm reception. We are very much committed towards supporting the implementation of several activities alongside the Eritrean ministries and government stakeholders. It has obviously been very encouraging to work in Eritrea and I believe there is room for more cooperation and further undertakings.

Asmara, the Addis Abeba that Never Was, for the Better

Asmara is Africa’s stunning new UNESCO World Heritage Site

Asmara and Addis Ababa are two cities with similar beginnings and influences in city planning and architecture. But while Asmara has preserved its architectural heritage, Addis Ababa opted for concrete skyscrapers at the expense of aesthetics … writes Ambessaw Assegued for Addis Fortune.


The old guard, now in their sixties and seventies, lumber into the lobby of the Embasoira Hotel in Asmera to meet and chat. Some are educated in selective universities like the University of Michigan and UC Berkeley. They are men and women who have devoted their skills and time to the liberation struggle of Eritrea. They wrote their doctoral dissertations and graduate theses with the independence of Eritrea in mind. Continue reading Asmara, the Addis Abeba that Never Was, for the Better

Asmara: A Beauty Frozen in Time

Asmara is Africa’s stunning new UNESCO World Heritage Site


Imagine, if you will, strolling through a quiet city where you may find empty intersections and very few people on the streets; a city with seemingly little connection with the outside world, as if it was located on an entirely different planet altogether. Continue reading Asmara: A Beauty Frozen in Time

Eritrea, the ‘Police State’ Where There are No Cops to be Seen?

The absence of visible policing, including traffic cops, on the streets of a large city, is hardly my idea of a police state. And nowhere have I seen a uniformed soldier, let alone anyone carrying a firearm.


Former US president Barrack Obama called it the “North Korea of Africa”. Others portray it as a terrible dictatorship, a police state, and a regional troublemaker. Its reputation has been further sullied by reports about so many of its citizens, young people mostly, fleeing repression at home. That repression, it is said, is the reason Eritrea’s youth are willing to risk life and limb in crossing the Mediterranean in overcrowded boats.  Continue reading Eritrea, the ‘Police State’ Where There are No Cops to be Seen?

Eritrea is a Dreamland for Railroad Nostalgics

In Eritrea, steam locomotives from the Italian colonial era are still operating. The route is also spectacular: it goes over mountains and through the desert to the Red Sea.


Kaum a traveler has ever been in Eritrea, a small country on the Red Sea is known primarily from the news. From its neighbors, especially the archenemy Ethiopia, the country secluded itself for a long time. Until it unexpectedly signed a peace treaty with Ethiopia in July 2018. Continue reading Eritrea is a Dreamland for Railroad Nostalgics

African World Heritage Day May 5th, 2018

This article intends to draw attention to the significance of the Asmara World Heritage Site on the occasion of the African World Heritage Day


We are celebrating this year’s African World Heritage Day, almost a year after Eritrea successfully got “Asmara: a Modernist City of Africainscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. African World Heritage Day is celebrated every year on May 5th, and it is a day of great continental and global importance. Continue reading African World Heritage Day May 5th, 2018

Making the UNESCO Heritage Site Asmara, a Locus of the Past for Future Generations

Asmara’s skyline height is fixed and the landmarks that make Asmara exceptional should not be blocked by contemporary buildings. It might simply ruin the overall expression of the city.

No more high-rise buildings in Asmara? Contemporary and high rise buildings that were built lately in Asmara such as the Nakfa House, Blue Building, and Ambassador Hotel are simply mistakes that we will not allow to repeat. Our plan is how to make Asmara a reflection of time, by restoring and preserving the 4,300 edifices that made Asmara worthy of the world heritage site.


Asmara is literally one of the rarest picturesque cities in the world. Its constriction which roughly dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900, saw the manifestation of several European architectural styles and currents. To this day, Asmara has withstood changes and gloriously shines in its humble loveliness of a longstanding modernist African city. Continue reading Making the UNESCO Heritage Site Asmara, a Locus of the Past for Future Generations

Asmara Offers Cheap Flights to its Travelers

Cultural and economic fillip to the city. Cheap flights to Asmara city, which is now a World Heritage site, will encourage travelers to discover this least explored modernist city of Africa.


Asmara, the capital of Eritrea origins back some 700 years primarily as an Italian state. The area still has artistic flavors of Italian culture, architecture and culinary traditions.

Many tourists praise the country belonging to different religions particularly Islam and Christianity as the day starts with a prayer call for Muslims followed by Christians’ prayers from cathedral. It is the safest region of the entire Africa and a source of persistent attraction to the travelers who plan and get on flights to Asmara. Continue reading Asmara Offers Cheap Flights to its Travelers