Italian Eritrea?? (poll)

I like a good surprise. Like when a nun wears pink socks. Or when a not-so-promising movie is actually funny, but – and this is very important – only because you had supremely low expectations (Men who Stare at Goats, anyone?).

Consider Eritrea – a hot African land that enjoys injera, spicy berberé seasoning, and lentil wat (stew) – all regionally appropriate. All very expected.

Then, look down at Eritrea’s proverbial pink socks, a.k.a. a burst of Italy in an otherwise traditional African nation.

In the capital, Asmara, you can sip on a cappuccino and admire the colonial architecture – designed to resemble Italian villas as well as European art deco structures. The Fiat Tagliero gas station is even made to look like an airplane. More than 50,000 colonizers set up their lives in Eritrea, so it is no wonder they eventually called their new home “Little Rome.”

Not bad for pink socks!

** Photos courtesy of Carsten ten Brink and Hans van der Splinter (who has a web site devoted to showing the world the beauty of Eritrea).  In Splinter’s words:

Starting from 1999, I visited Asmara on a yearly basis, and I walked through the city almost every day. I experienced its beauty, both its tranquility and its activity, the hospitality and the friendliness of its people. I have tried to catch the images of these walking tours in a set of 200 pictures and a brief description, as a tourist, for future tourists and visitors to Asmara Eritrea.


  1. I knew that.. And in Italy you can find very very good Erithrean restaurants, at least in the big cities. In Milan there is a small alley with two, one better than the other. So I won’t vote for your poll, since I have tried it all! I *really* loved Injera, since I love eating with my hands, and what is better for it than injera and pizza?

    • Sasha Martin says

      How neat! I suppose I should have expected Eritrean culture to influence Italy as well – I just didn’t think about finding their food in Italy! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Ignazio Marconi says

      No wonder you find lots of Eritrean restaurants in Italy! THousands of Eritreans illegally immigrate into Italy every year.

  2. woot!! I can check off that I have had: Berbere’. Injera…Its funny that the buildings arent as “rugged” looking as the food seems..but both are artistically sparkling in every way! Delcicious…I would love to visit. Art Deco (one of my favorite art forms)??? who would have thunk that in Africa ?

    • Sasha Martin says

      We all influence each other – I almost feel like, while there are political borders, there are no cultural borders any more. Things look more rugged in the country, but this is the general sense of the capital. Beautiful city!

    • Ignazio Marconi says

      Actually, NO. The Kingdom of Italy created Eritrea at the end of the nineteenth century. They called it “ERITREA”, because the country lies next to the Red Sea, and in Latin (and therefore in Italian, “erythra means “red”. Hence, “Eritrea” means “Red Land”.

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