Eritrea’s capital city, Asmara is set in the centre of the country on the eastern edge of the high plateau. Its name, ‘Forest of Flowers’, is indicative of its feel – it is as friendly and relaxed as any small town, with an easy-going pace of life. Prior to the Italian occupation from 1889, Asmara was a small village and the home of the Ras Alulua, the then governor of the region. Contemporary Asmara was built as the capital of the Italian colony of Eritrea during the period 1890-1940. It has a mixture of Italian and Eritrean architecture. By the time of independence, it had become the second largest city in Ethiopia.
There are surprisingly few signs that this city was at war for over 20 years in that, except for the obvious neglect of the buildings, there are few bullet scars or signs of bomb damage. However, Asmara was occupied by the Ethiopian Dergue and a legacy of this era is the prison at Mariam Gimbi where members of the Ethiopian army tortured EPLF sympathizers.