The great pyramids at Giza, EgyptElephants crossing the Zambezi river in Mana Pools National Park world heritage site, ZimbabweThe great mosque in the Old Towns of Djenne world heritage site, MaliBlack and white ruffed lemur, Rainforests of the Atsinanana world heritage site, Madagascar

Asmara Modernist City of Africa - Eritrea

WebsiteCategory: European Colonial Influences                                   

Area: approx 4.8 km2

Inscribed: 2017

Criteria:  (ii) interchange of values

                (iv) icon of an era

Location and Values:  Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, lies on a highland plateau in the centre of the country, perched above the Red Sea in north-east Africa.  It is an exceptional example of early modernist urban development at the beginning of the 20th century and its application in Africa.

The world heritage site covers a large part of the city incorporating the area that best exemplifies the modernisation of urban planning and development by the Italian colonial power, and the contrasting unplanned neighbourhoods nearby.  The ‘modernist city’ emerged through successive periods of urban planning over the Italian colonial period from 1893 to 1941. It is characterised by an urban layout based on an orthogonal grid of streets (with some diagonal axes), and the development of a large number of buildings designed according to the distinctive early modernist and rationalist architectural thinking of the day.   

 Slideshow of the Asmara world heritage site:   The slideshow shows a number of the modernist buildings and urban environment of Asmara, including the opera house, Fiat Taglieri service station, St Mary’s orthodox cathedral, Grand Mosque and the Cinema Impero. Most of the photographs are kindly contributed by David Stanley through, with others by Lucia Tarantola and Andrea Moroni. Each photo is individually attributed by way of a watermark.


Google Earth View:  To view satellite imagery of the Asmara world heritage area on Google Earth, click here.  This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing.  The window opens to provide an overview of the designated area, showing the formal road layout with the informal area of Abbashawel at the top (north) of the image.

Links to other places featuring European colonial influences:  Kunta Kinteh  I  Ghana Forts  I  Fort Jesus  I  Essaouira  I  Mazagan  I  Mozambique Goree  I  Saint-Louis  I  Cidade Velha I Robben Island 

Other Links: Official UNESCO Site Details 

Principal road through one of the informal neighbourhoods of Asmara, Eritrea’s Modernist City, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site Saint Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral is one of the prominent buildings in Eritrea’s UNESCO world heritage site ‘Asmara: A Modernist City of Africa’The iconic Taglieri Fiat Building (one of the prominent buildings in Eritrea’s UNESCO world heritage site ‘Asmara: A Modernist City of Africa’)Interior of the opera house (one of the iconic buildings in Eritrea’s UNESCO world heritage site ‘Asmara: A Modernist City of Africa’)



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