It’s hard not to question why Asmara was named a World Heritage Site, especially as the country is reeling from decades of hardship.
Asmara is itself a giant monument to colonial folly. When it comes to architecture, the Italians simply lost their heads.
—Michela Wrong, I Didn’t Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation
In early July 2017, Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hundreds of modernist buildings in the historic city center, built between 1935 and 1941 under Italian colonial rule, made it onto this prestigious list, along with the city of Asmara itself. This moment comes as Eritrea, which sits like a narrow, slanted pistol along the Horn of Africa, continues to face fierce criticism. Its government is considered one of the world’s most repressive regimes.