Billed as “a city above the clouds,” Asmara is set at the tip of an escarpment on the northwest edge of the Eritrean highlands at an altitude of about 2,350m. Beautiful, clean and pleasantly cool, the city enjoys a pleasant climate all-year round, averaging a 23.5°C high and 9.4°C low, with a very short wet season lasting 2 months, June and July.
Asmara boasts of the most concentrated and intact exhibitions of modernist architecture anywhere in the world. A memorial to the Italian influence on the city from late 19th century, who named the city ‘Piccola Roma’ – Little Rome. The Italian influence is reflected in the culture and social life even though the people still retain their identities as Africans.
Fondly referred to as Piccola Roma (Little Rome) by the Italian Fascists, Asmara cityscape is dotted with a classic collection of vintage Italian architecture, designed mainly in the Art-Deco style. The Fiat Tagliero is a definite ‘Must See’ and so are the cinemas: Cinema Impero, Cinema Odeon, Capitol Cinema (Cinema Teatro Augustus) and Cinema Roma. There are several other fascinating buildings like: President Office (former colonial governor’s palace), Villa Roma, World Bank Building, St. Joseph Cathedral, Al-Khulafa Al-Rahidun Mosque and the Opera House. Apart from these, you should consider the Asmara Zoo, Shida Square, the National Museum and Central Market.
Local meals are particularly spicy and hot consisting of meat and vegetables. Italian influence in the cuisine is understandable, although there is also noticeable Yemeni and Sudanese influence. You will easily find Italian food like pasta and pizza dishes at several Italian restaurants in the city. Oriental cuisines can be found at a couple of Far Eastern restaurants, while the Indians are usually somewhere on the scene as well.
Of course, coffee is a big deal in Eritrea – just as it is in Ethiopia. Tea is also well consumed. As for coffee, the Asmarinos like it Italian style and one of their favourite’s is the macchiato, or ‘stained coffee’ – coffee with a hint of steamed milk froth. The country used to have a wine tradition back in the colonial days, but the locals are rather given to beer now. The local beer is quite good and you should not be afraid to give it a try, if you like beer. With that said, some of the restaurants and hotels have good wine and spirits for your delights.