Notes for Visitors

Visas To obtain a visa, send:

your passport or travel document valid for at least six months from the date of your visa application,

one recent passport size photo,

signed and completed application form, available from the Consular Section of this embassy (see address on back),

application fee of $25.00 paid by company check or money order (no personal checks accepted) and made out to "Embassy of Eritrea",

self-addressed envelope with appropriate postage/shipping affixed. (Registered mail, express mail, or Federal Express recommended for safety.) For diplomatic or official travel, a note verbale or diplomatic note is also required. For business travel, a letter from the sponsoring company stating the purpose of the trip is required. Visa processing takes at least three business days. The Consular Section handles inquiries from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. The visa issued is valid for entry within 2 months of the issue date.

Authorized entry/exit points are: Asmara and Asseb Airports by air; the ports of Massawa and Asseb, Tio Gate, and Gahro Gate by sea; and by land: Zalembesa and Tsorona in Akele Guzai province; Kidad Iqa in Seraye; Talata Asher, Om Hajer, and Shilalo in Gash Setit; Germaika and Malover in Barka; Karora in Sahel; and Lemasin in Denkalia.

Health Shots for yellow fever are required. Shots for tetanus, and gamma globulin for hepatitis are recommended. The form of malaria prevalent in Eritrea's lowlands is chloroquine resistant. Start your shots about four weeks before departure. Carry your International Certificate of Vaccination when you go.

The medical services provide adequate treatment if by chance you do need them. Equipment is not the state of the art and supplies of medications can be irregular. There are private physicians as well as government hospitals in major cities. The country has a network of village health workers who send cases they cannot handle to district clinics, regional hospitals, and the central hospital in Asmara. There are pharmacies in major cities. Toiletries and basic first aid items are generally available. Carrying sufficient supplies of required prescriptions to meet your needs is advisable. Sanitary napkins, but not tampons, are available. Solutions for contact lenses are not available in Eritrea.

Climate Eritrea can be divided into three major zones: the central highlands, the coastal region, and the western lowlands.

In the highlands, the hottest month is May with highs around 85F. The coldest months are December through February with lows around 32F. The difference between each day's high and low temperature is about 33 degrees. There are two rainy seasons. The short rains are in March and April. The main rainy season is from late June through the beginning of September. Fog is common during the main rainy season and from December through February.

Along the coast, the hottest months are from June through August when the temperature ranges from 72 to 105F. During the coldest season from December through February, the temperature ranges from 65 to 90F. The northern coast has a rainy season from December through February. Rain is rare along the southern coast.

In the western lowlands, the high temperature can reach 105F during the hottest months of April through June. During the coldest month, December, the temperature will fall to 55F. The difference between each day's high and low temperature is about 38 degrees. The rainy seasons are similar to the highlands.

Packing Dress is relatively informal. Very revealing clothes or short shorts are not recommended except for the beach. Barbers and hairdressers are plentiful. Both color and black and white film can be purchased and developed in Asmara. Film can also be purchased in other cities. Take a swimsuit. Eritrea's beaches are clean and uncrowded. Massawa, the main port, is only two and a half hours drive from the capital, Asmara. If you plan to visit rural areas accessible only on foot, pack light. You should also have good walking shoes with soles that can grip on rocks and a sleeping bag.

A few English language books can be found in the shops in Asmara. There is an English language weekly newsletter, Eritrea Profile, put out by the Ministry of Information and Culture. The National Library is near Mai Jahjah Fountain. The British Council Library is on the second street running along the side of the Government Administrative Center. A shortwave radio for BBC and Voice of America broadcasts is recommended. The AM stations broadcast in locallanguages only.

Transportation Eritrean Airlines, Egypt Air, Lufthansa, and Yemeni Air share a ticket office at Liberation Avenue #89-91, Tel.: 125501, Fax: 114775. Ethiopian Airlines can be reached at 127512; Saudia Air at 120166; and Sudan Airways at 120604. There are buses which travel from the airport to the downtown area. Taxis are also available.

The Eritrean Tour Service (ETS), Liberation Avenue #61, Tel.: 124929, offers cars for rent and organized tours around the country. There are buses between towns.

Currency At present, the Ethiopian birr is used as the national currency. The exchange rate floats, generally between 5-6 birr = US$ 1.00. Money can be changed at the airport or the banks in the downtown area. Traveler's checks are accepted. Credit cards are not.

Time Eritrea is eight hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. (Noon t 3 in New York is 8:00 pm in Asmara.) and two hours ahead of ~ Greenwich Mean Time.

Business hours in Asmara are from 8:00 am to noon and from 2:00 to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday, and from 8:00 am to noon on Saturday. Shops are often open a few hours later in the evening and on Saturday afternoon. In other towns hours may vary.

Electricity Asmara uses 110 and 220 alternating current (AC). There are occasional surges and brown outs so it is a good idea to bring a surge suppressor. Voltage and type of current varies in other towns.

Phone There is international phone service from Asmara. There is q~ service between major towns within the country. When calling Eritrea, the country code is 291 and the city code for Asmara is 1.

Postal Service There is domestic and international service. The \ / main post office is located downtown in the plaza behind the Eritrean /~\ Tour Service and across from the Commercial Bank of Eritrea.

Measurements Eritrea uses the metric system:
1 pound = .45 kilos 1 kilo = 2.2 pounds 1 meter = 39 inches or 1.08 yards 1 yard = 3.91 meters 1 kilometer = .63 miles 1 mile= 1.61 kilometers
Hotels, Food and Drink:
Asmara:Ambassador Tel: 126544 Fax: 116545 Ambassoira Tel: 12322 Fax: 122595 Hamasien Tel: 123411 Keren Tel: 120740 Nyala Tel: 123111 Fax: 122914 Salam Tel: 127244 Fax: 120662 Massawa: Dahlak Tel: 552725 Gurgussum Tel: 552522 Red Sea Tel: 553710 Keren: Keren Tel: 14
> When you ask for rates, also ask about service and sales taxes. Foreigners are required to pay their hotel bills in foreign currency. Most hotels serve meals.

Italian cuisine dominates in restaurants in major cities. This is a true Italian meal: a pasta dish is one of several courses, not the entire meal. While you can find fish in Asmara, seafood, including shrimp and lobster, is a specialty in Massawa. You can also find hamburgers in Asmara. Traditional Eritrean food is very spicy. Tea and expresso coffee are both normally served black with a lot of sugar. In some areas coffee is made with ginger or black pepper as well as sugar in it. American coffee is not usually available. Blended fruit drinks of banana, mango or papaya are common in major cities. Asmara Brewery (formerly Melotti) produces one of the best beers in the region. They also make a variety of liquors.

Languages: Nine languages are indigenous to Eritrea's nine nationalities: Afar, Arabic (Rashaida nationality), Bilen, Kunama, Nara, Saho, Tigre, Tigrinya, and ToBedawi (Hadareb nationality). Arabic and ,,,~,.~,, ~and Italian among the older generation) are widely spoken as second languages. There is no official language. The government uses Arabic and Tigrinya for daily work. Many business people as well as government workers speak English.

Major Holidays

	National:  New Year:               	    January 1
	           Independence:                May 24
	           Martyrs Day:                 June 20
	           Start of the Armed Struggle: September 1
	Religious: Timket:                      variable (January) 
	           Eid el-Fitr:                 variable (spring) 
	           Fasika (Easter):             variable (spring) 
	           Eid el-Adha:                 variable (summer) 
	           Eid Milad el-Nabi:           variable (fall) variable 
	           Meskel:                      variable (September)
Embassies, Consulates and Representatives
China		  Tel:	116988	Fax:	157-2123
Djibouti	  Tel:	182189	Fax:	181001
Egypt	        Tel:	123603	Fax:	123294
Ethiopia	  Tel:	116144
Europen Union Tel:	122717	Fax:	122717
Israel        Tel:	120137	Fax:	120187
Italy         Tel:	120160      Fax:  121115
Norway        Tel:	127718	Fax:	121221
Sudan         Tel:	124176	Fax:	120287
UK            Tel:	120145	Fax:	120104
UNDHA         Tel:	182168	Fax:	873-150-7653
UNCHR         Tel:	124022	Fax:	873-175-4313
UNICEF        Tel:	182533	Fax:	873-161 -0741
UNWFP         Tel:	126669	Fax:	873-115-1162
UNDP          Tel:	182166	Fax:	873-150-7653
USA           Tel:	123720	Fax:	127584
Yemen         Tel:	120206	Fax:	11 8962


The name Asmara comes from "Arbate Asmara." It means "they (feminine) united the four." Oral tradition holds that there were four small villages in this area which were fighting with each other. The women of the villages got together and worked out a plan to end the fighting and unite the four as one village.

Asmara remained a small village until 1897. In that year, Ferdinando Martini, the first Italian civil governor of Eritrea, transferred the capital from Massawa to Asmara. Italian architecture prevails in the center city. The main avenues are shaded by palms and other trees. Bougainvillea flowers are everywhere. Both the top floor of Nyala hotel and the Cherhi bar offer vistas of the city.

Liberation Avenue is the center of city life. It extends from Government Administrative Center eastward to September First Stadium. Asmara Theater (built in 1918), the City Administration, the Ministry of Education, the Supreme Court, the Catholic Cathedral and the Central Bank are all on Liberation Avenue. In the late afternoon and early evenings, Asmara residents stroll up and down the avenue to meet their friends and enjoy coffee, tea, fruit drinks and pastries at one of the bars and coffee shops.

There are many beautiful churches and mosques in Asmara. The Catholic Cathedral on Liberation Avenue was constructed in Lombard style in 1922. The main mosque, Khulafa el Rashidin, was built in 1937 with Dekemhare travertine and Carrara marble. Inda Mariam, the main Orthodox church, was built between 1917 and 1920. Both Khulafa el Rashidin and Inda Mariam are a few blocks northeast of the Catholic Cathedral.

The former Ghibi or palace, residence of various colonial rulers, is across from the Government Administrative Center at the western end of Liberation Avenue. Reopened as the National Museum after Eritrea was liberated in May 1991, it was built by Ferdinando Martini, the first Italian civil administrator, in 1897. For a brief period in the 1940s it was an English school. The museum has sections on art, culture and the independence struggle as well as a lovely garden.

The extensive central market, north of the Catholic Cathedral, is worth visiting. There are stalls grouped in sections for grain, vegetables, spices, used parts, used furniture and clothing, baskets, pottery, crafts carved from wood, and textiles and clothing among other things. Gold and silver jewelry can be found in the streets between the main mosque and the Government Administration Center.

Other points of interest are Asmara University and the Mai Jahjah fountain. At the edge of town on the road to Dekemhare and Massawa, there is a British cemetery and what remains of the zoo which was run down during the war.


The road from Asmara to Massawa in Semhar province offers many scenic panoramas along its twists and turns. You can see Debre Bizen, the famous Orthodox monastery, from the road. You will pass through the town of Ghinda and a major citrus fruit production area.

Massawa became an urban center in ancient times. It is the largest natural deep water port on the Red Sea. If Asmara is an "Italian" city, Massawa is a "TurkoEgyptian" one. The city is divided into three parts: Batsa, Twalet and the mainland or Idaga The old town and port are on the island of Batsa. This is joined to Twalet by a causeway. Another causeway connects Twalet to the mainland.

Coral blocks, carved stone lintels, and roshans (wooden windows which extend outwards into the street) predominate in Batsa's old town. The architecture reflects the impact of Turkish and Egyptian rule from 1500s until the late 1800s. The city was badly damaged by Ethiopian bombing and shelling from its liberation by the EPLF in February 1990 until the liberation of all of Eritrea in May 1991. Nevertheless, a stroll through this area is still pleasure for the eyes. One can see the remains of a wooden roof covering one of the streets. The main mosque, Imam Hanbeli, is largely intact and there are many other mosques from various periods. Many of the city's restaurants and coffee shops are in Batsa so you can periodically rest your feet and enjoy some refreshment. Small boats will take you from Batsa to Sheikh Said Island (Isola Verde) to the southwest. It is a favorite spot for picnics. The Ministry of Marine Resources and some private business people offer boats for rental.

Twalet Island is to a greater extent a mixture of Turko-Egyptian and Italian architecture. The Ghibi or palace is near the causeway to Batsa. The foundations are from the 1500s but the building has been restored numerous times since then. It was badly damaged during the independence struggle and is in need of restoration again. The Port Club is open to the general public. The complex includes a restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating, a small library and museum, and some sports facilities.

The airport and the main market are on the mainland directly across the Twalet causeway. Beyond the airport in Hitumlo is the tomb of Hashim el Mirgani. North of the causeway is an industrial area. The salt flats and the cement factory are located here. Gergussum beach to the north of Massawa on the mainland offers lots of white sand and warm water for sunbathing and swimming. In nearby Emberemi are the tombs of Sheikh el Amin and Muhammad ibn Ali, both major pilgrimage sites. In Emkulu there is a monument under construction for the EPLF fighters who died on the Salina salt flats in the 1977-1978 battle for Massawa.

Other Attractions

Senhit: Keren was the site of a major World War ll battle between the Italians and the British and there is a military cemetery there. The Forto was built during the Turkish period. Mariam de Arit and the tomb of Said Abu Bakr el Mirgani are both important religious sites near the city. Debre Sina, near the Elabered agricultural estate on the Asmara-Keren road, is another important monastery.

Barka: Agordet, in the western lowlands, has several Turko-Egyptian buildings. It is the site of the tomb of Said Mustafa wad Hasan.

Gash Setit: Barentu, located in mountains surrounded by open plains, is the center of the Kunama area in Eritrea. Tessenei is a major border town. The Ali Gider agricultural estate is located nearby.

Denkalia: Asseb is a modern city with very nice beaches. Part of the Danakil Depression, the hottest spot in the world, lies in northern Denkalia.

Sahel: Nakfa, the capital of Sahel province and the symbol of Eritrean resistance during the difficult years of the late seventies and early eighties, is now being rebuilt. Denden, the site of the most important EPLF trenches during these years, lies just outside Nakfa. Afabet, the site of the most important Ethiopian military base in Eritrea until its capture by the EPLF in 1988, was also badly damaged by bombing. Orota, the EPLF's "underground city" during the war years, lies to the northwest of Nakfa. There are archaeological ruins in the Rora Habab mountains.

Seraye: One of the main roads from Asmara to Ethiopia passes through Debarowa, Mendefera and Adi Owala. Debarowa was the site of a major Japanese copper

operation before the war. The pilgrimage and festival of Sheikh Muzamil is held at Adi Itai, outside of Mendefera, at the end of the year.

Akele Guzai: The other main road from Asmara to Ethiopia passes through the towns of Dekemhare, Adi Qayeh and Senafe. There are archaeological ruins at Qohaito and Matera.


Abeba Tesfagiorgis. 1992. A Painful Season and A Stubbon Hope. Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press.
Africa Watch. 1991. Evil Days: Thirty Years of War and Famine in Ethiopia. New York: Human Rights 
Britain. British Military Administration. 1944. and Tribes of Eritrea. Asmara: BMA.
Cliffe. Lionel and B. Davidson, eds. 1988. The Long Strugg!e of Eritrea. Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press.
Connell. Dan. 1993. Against All Odds. Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press.
Davidson, Basil. eds. 1980. Behind the War in Eritrea. Nottingham: Spokesman.
Doornbos, Martin. et al., eds. 1992. Beyond the Conflict in the Horn. Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press.
Ellingson, Lloyd. 1977. The Emergence of Political Parties in Eritrea,1941-1950. Joumal of African 
History XV111:2.
Firebrace, James and Stuart Holland. 1985. Never Kneel Down, Drought Development and Liberation in 
Eritrea. Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press.
Gebre Medhin, Jordan. 1988. Peasants and Nationalism in Eritrea. Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press.
Ghebre-ab, Habtu. 1993. Ethiopia and Eritrea: A Documentary Study. Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press.
Government of Eritrea. 1993. Birth of a Nation. Asmara: Government of Eritrea.
Habte Selassie, Bereket. 1980. Conflict and Intervention in the Horn of Africa. New York: Monthly 
Review Press.
Habte Selassie, Bereket. 1989. Eritrea and the United Nations. Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press.
Kaplan, Robert D. 1988. Surrender or Starve, The Wars Behind the Famine. Boulder Westview.
Kibreab, Gaim. 1987. Refugees and Development in Africa The Case of Eritrea. Trenton NJ: Red Sea 
Longrigg, Stephen H. 1945. A Short History of Eritrea. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Machida, Robert. 1987. Eritrea: The Struggle for Independence. Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press.
Marando. Joseph. 1987. Life in Liberated Eritrea. Rome: RICE.
Mottem, Nicholas. 1988. Suffering Strong. Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press.
Nzongola-Ntalaja, Georges, ed. 1991. Conflict in the Horn of Africa. Atlanta: African Studies 
Pateman, Roy. 1990. Eritrea: Even the Stones Are Burning. Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press.
Pankhurst, E. Sylvia. 1952. Eritrea on the Eve. London: Woodford Green.
Papstein, Robert. 1991. Eritrea: Revolution at Dusk. Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press.
Permanent People's Tribunal. 1982. Proceedings of the Permanent People's Tribunal. May 24-26 1980. 
Rome: RICE.
Pool, David. 1980. Eritrea. Africa's Longest War. London: Anti-Slavery Society.
Sherman, Richard. 1980. Eritrea. The Unfinished Revolution. New York: Praeger.
Tesfagiorgis, Gebre H., ed. 1992. Emergent Eritrea: Challenges of Economic Development, Washington DC: 
for Peace and Democracy (EPD).
Trevaskis, G.K.N. 1960. Eritrea, A Colony in Transition: 1941-52. London: Oxford Univ. Press.
United Nations. 1948. Four Power Commission of Investigation for the Former Italian Colonies. The 
Report on Eritrea. London: UN.
United Nations. 1950. Report of the United Nations Commission for Eritrea. Lake Success NY: UN.
United Nations. 1953. Eritrea and the United Nations: Shaping a People's Destiny. New York: UN.
Wilson, Amrit. 1991. The Challenge Road: Women and the Eritrean 
Revolution. Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press.Yohannes, Okbazghi. 1991. Eritrea: A Pawn in World Politics. 
Gainesville: Univ. of Florida Press.

Additional Background Reading

Against All Odds by Dan Connell (Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press,1993) 
Beyond the Conflict in the Horn edited by M. Doornbos, et al. (Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press, 1992)
Birth of a Nation by the Government of Eritrea (Asmara, 1993)
Emergent Eritrea: Challenges of Economic Development edited by Gebre Hiwet Tesfagiorgis (Trenton NJ: 
Red Sea Press, 1993 reprint of 1992 original).
Eritrea, A Colony in Transition by G.K.N. Trevaskis (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1960)
Eritrea: A Pawn in World Politics by Okbazghi Yohannes (Gainesville: Univ. of Florida Press, 1991)
Eritrea: Even the Stones Are Burning by Roy Pateman (Trenton: Red Sea Press, 1 990)
Eritrea: Revolution at Dusk by Robert Papstein (Trenton: Red Sea Press, 1991)
Ethiopia and Eritrea: A Documentry Study compiled by Habtu Ghebre-Ab (Trenton NJ: Red Sea 
A Painful Season and a Stubborn Hope by Abeba Tesfagiorgis (Trenton NJ: Red Sea Press, 1992)
A Short History of Eritrea by Stephen Longrigg (Oxford: Clarendon, 1945)
Women and the Eritrean Revolution: The Challenge Road by Amrit Wilson (Trenton: Red Sea Press, 1991)

The Eritrean Embassy has various other information materials available. If you are interested, please contact us for a publications list.

We hope you enjoy your visit! The information in this brochure is accurate as of the date of publication. Things are changing rapidly in Eritrea, however, and some of it may prove out of date. If you have any comments or suggestions for future versions of this brochure, please send them to us at the address below.

For more information, contact:
Information Section
Embassy of Eritrea
PO Box 65685
Washington DC 20035	
Tel:	(202) 429 1991
Fax:  (202) 429 9004