October 19, 2012
Two islands and the mainland together form Massawa. They are connected by two causeways. Apart from the salt ponds there is not much of interest in the mainland part of Massawa although this is where the majority of the population live. The first of the two islands is called Taulud with the war memorial, the St. Mariam's Cathedral, the old railway station, the Dahlak hotel and the Imperial Palace. Crossing the second causeway you enter the rather Moorish port area of town. This part of Massawa, called Batse, still has great charm, especially at night when the little alleyways between the Turkish, Egyptian and Italian buildings come alive. One of the foremost attractions of Massawa, both day and night, are the bars and restaurants.

Massawa was once the largest and safest port on the east coast of Africa but suffered terrible damage during the war. Massawa used to be the headquarters of the Ethiopian navy. It was fought over by both sides during the struggle for Eritrean independence. To this day Massawa remains the largest natural deep-water port on the Red Sea. It is now Eritrea's main port and access to the rest of the world and is being rehabilitated. The dockyard is back in operation and handling an impressive tonnage of merchandise. Numerous houris from Yemen and Saudi Arabia intermingle with larger ships.

Massawa is the departure point for trips to the Dahlak islands and diving expeditions. One can enjoy the sights with the minimum of hassle and maximum safety. Fishing craft are slowly returning. Massawa is a historical and cultural melting pot. Sheikh Said Island (or Green Island) is just opposite Taulud, the first of Massawa's islands reached by crossing the first causeway. It is ideal for a day trip/picnic and not expensive to reach.

North of Massawa is the white sandy beach of Gurgusum. The beaches are clean and uncrowded. It is a good place to sunbathe, for swimming, sailing, (scuba) diving or snorkeling.

Although the places of interest all are within a distance of less then 5 kilometers of the Dahlak Hotel and Hotel Central, the usually high temperatures do not invite the visitor to walk for more then 30 minutes. It is essential to take a water bottle on every trip when traveling to or walking in the surroundings of Massawa (and the Dahlak Islands)!

The best restaurants in Massawa are the Eritrean Restaurant, which serves good and cheap meals, pasta's, steaks, grilled fish and salads. Salaam is a fish restaurant in the old part of town. This very modest restaurant serves large portions of grilled fish for very reasonable prices on tables in the open air.

Special event / National Holiday 10 February 10: Operation Fenkil Anniversary, a remembrance of the last days of the war fought to liberate the city of Massawa (1990). The three tanks at the end of the first causeway were the main military hardware, used by the EPLF in the operation Fenkil. They now serve as a statue, at the spot where they halted in February 1990, in memory of those who gave their lives for the liberation of Massawa.
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