Massawa is a city on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea located at the northern end of the Gulf of Zula beside the Dahlak Archipelago. An important port for many centuries, it was ruled by a succession of polities, including the Axumite Empire, Medri Bahri Kingdom, the Umayyad Caliphate, various Beja sultanates, the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, Italy, Britain, and Ethiopia, until Eritrea's independence in 1991. Massawa was the capital of the Italian Colony of Eritrea until this was moved to Asmara in 1897.
Notable buildings in the city include the shrine of Sahaba, as well as the 15th century Sheikh Hanafi Mosque and various houses of coral. Many Ottoman buildings survive, such as the local bazaar. Later buildings include the Imperial Palace, built in 1872 to 1874 for Werner Munzinger; St. Mary's Cathedral; and the 1920s Banco d'Italia. The Eritrean War of Independence is commemorated in a memorial of three tanks in the middle of Massawa.
Massawa has a hot desert climate. The city receives a very low average annual rainfall amount with around 190 mm and consistently experiences soaringly high temperatures both during the day and during the night. The annual mean average temperature approaches 30 °C and is one of the highest found in the world. Massawa is noted for its very high summer humidity despite being a desert city. The combination of the desert heat and high humidity makes the apparent temperatures seem even more extreme. The sky is usually clear and bright throughout the year.
You obviously have to eat Red Sea fish while in Massawa. The best place to do that is either at the Dahlak Hotel (somewhat pricy but well worth it) or at the rustic streetside restaurant in oldtown Massawa (there is only one) where the day's catch is grilled Yemeni style in a fired up clay-oven and served along with little limes and a side order of thin flat-bread and dates soaked in butter and honey.
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