Discovering Eritrea

Travel Destinations — By on October 7, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Eritrea is not a well-touristed place, nor even a very well known country. But Jeffrey Gettleman went there recently with his wife and found it to be a rather interesting destination, with a taste of old Italy mixed with Africa. He wrote about his trip for the NY Times.

Eritrea, for better and for worse, is a nation locked in a time capsule. Visiting here is like spending your vacation in a vintage shop. Old men in dapper Fedora hats and antique Italian shades haunt Harnet Avenue, the palm-studded main drag in Asmara, the capital. The city itself is a showcase for some of the world’s boldest, most whimsical examples of 1930s Art Deco architecture, perfectly preserved by the thin desert air…

Asmara the architectural marvel is not so much the purposeful result of a hard-fought preservation battle. No. There were battles, real ones, and it was Eritrea’s bloody history of conflict and civil war that has kept this little-known sliver of a country along the Red Sea hermetically sealed to the outside world. The result is a surreal, out-of-body tourist experience, where you feel dislocated from just about everywhere else, but euphoric and inspired by what is in front of you. Africa? The Mediterranean? The Middle East? South Beach? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what Eritrea feels like.

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