Visit Massawa: Unveiling the Ancient Seaport Gem of Eritrea

Revel in the allure of the “Pearl of the Red Sea” – the captivating city of Massawa. Immerse yourself in its exotic ambiance and wander through enchanting alleyways that lead to the breathtaking Gurgussum Beach. Whether you approach from the sea or the Dogali plateau, Massawa’s mesmerizing beauty, nestled against the azure sea, will greet you with open arms.

1. A Sturdy City with a Rich History

Like the tenacious Eritreans themselves, Massawa City has stood strong through the centuries. As one of Eritrea’s oldest cities, its heritage is deeply influenced by Arab and Ottoman Turkish rule dating back to the 10th and 16th centuries, respectively. Preserved architectural marvels from its time as the main port of the Italian colony in the 19th century reflect its multicultural past. At its core lies Massawa, also known as Mitsi’wa (“the call”) in the local Tigrinya language, with ancient roots traced back to the name Bazh. Throughout history, Massawa has been ruled by various powers, yet it has maintained its original charm, blending Italian, Egyptian, and Ottoman architecture in the historic center of Massawa Island.

2. The Diverse Geographical Makeup

Massawa comprises a piece of mainland, the Gherar peninsula, and two coral islands – Taulud (“the long one”) and Batz’. Taulud Island, uninhabited until the late 19th century when Italians began its development, is now connected to the mainland via a causeway. With its labyrinthine streets designed to encourage a pleasant breeze, the island beckons visitors to explore its hidden corners.

3. Exploring Historical Landmarks

In the heart of Massawa’s Old City lie significant historical landmarks, each with its unique tale to tell:

  1. Shrine of Sahaba: Legends suggest it may be the world’s oldest Islamic shrine, built by the followers of the prophet in 615 AD.
  2. Sheikh Hanafi Mosque: The oldest mosque in Eritrea, dating back to the 15th century AD.
  3. Bazaar: A fine Ottoman building that reflects the city’s multicultural past.
  4. Imperial Palace: Now in ruins, this ornate building was constructed for French consul Werner Munzinger in 1872-1874.
  5. Banco d’Italia: A gorgeous building constructed in the 1920s.

4. Things to do in Massawa: Adventure Awaits

Massawa offers an abundance of exciting activities for adventurous souls. Embark on a thrilling boat excursion to Green Island, a secluded paradise with lush vegetation and pristine beaches. Indulge in the city’s maritime culture by savoring mouthwatering seafood dishes at local eateries. History enthusiasts can explore the Massawa National Museum, home to a fascinating collection of ancient pottery, traditional crafts, and relics from past civilizations.

5. Tips for the Perfect Visit

For a seamless and enjoyable trip, keep these valuable tips in mind. The ideal time to visit is during the dry season, from November to May, when both the city and surrounding islands are pleasant to explore. Remember to carry cash, as credit cards may not be accepted at local establishments. Embrace the unique blend of cultures and show respect for local customs and traditions.


Massawa, a hidden gem awaiting discovery, invites discerning travelers to experience an authentic and enriching journey. With its rich history, charming architecture, and captivating landscapes, Massawa promises an unforgettable adventure along the Red Sea. So pack your bags, embrace the allure of this timeless city, and set forth to uncover the enchanting jewel of the Red Sea – Massawa, Eritrea.



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