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Massawa, formerly known as Mitsiwa (Ge'ez ምጽዋ miṣṣiwa, Arabic مصوع maṣṣawaʿ, Italian Massaua) and Batsiʿ (Ge'ez ባጽዕ bāṣiʿ, [Eritrean spelling reform], formerly ባፅዕ bāṣ́iʿ) or Badi (Arabic بِضع baḍiʿ) is a port on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea. Important for many centuries, it has been colonised by Portugal, Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, Italy, Britain and finally Ethiopia until 1991. It became the capital of the Italian colony of Eritrea until this was moved to Asmara in 1900.

[edit] History

Massawa is first mentioned in the Royal Chronicle of Negus of Axum Yeshaq, when the Emperor's deputy stationed there revolted.<ref>Huntingford, G. W. B., Pankhurst, Richard; Appleyard, David (1989). The Historical Geography of Ethiopia: From the First Century AD to 1704. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0197260551.</ref>. Originally only covering Wushti Batsi (Massawa Island), the city grew to cover Taulud Island and the mainland, which are now linked by causeways.

Massawa in the 19th century

Originally a part of the Midre Bahri, under the rule of its powerful King the Bahr negus, Massawa was captured by the Ottoman Empire in 1557, who then used it as a base in an attempt to conquer the rest of Eritrea and province of Tigray. Once they had been clearly defeated by Emperor Sarsa Dengel, the Ottoman authorities placed the city and its immediate hinterlands under the control of one of the aristocrats of the Beja people, whom they appointed Naib of Massawa and answerable to the Ottoman governor at Suakin. During the 19th century, along with much of the African coast of the Red Sea, it was ruled by Egypt with Ottoman consent. Following the Egyptian defeat at the Battle of Gura, Egyptian control of the port withered, and with the help of the British, Massawa came under Italian control as part of their colony of Eritrea in 1885.

In 1921 most of the City and Port of Massawa was destroyed by a powerful earthquake; the ports were unable to fully recover until 1928,<ref>Killion, Tom (1998). Historical Dictionary of Eritrea. The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810834375.</ref> hampering the Italian colonial ambitions.

During World War II, a large number of Italian and German ships were scuttled to block the harbor. The ships were salvaged and the port was returned to service by U.S. Navy Captain Edward Ellsberg in 1942. Once the largest and safest port on the east coast of Africa, and as the largest deep-water port on the Red Sea, Massawa was the headquarters of the Ethiopian Navy.

As part of the Eritrean War of Independence, units of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front captured Massawa in a surprise attack from both land and sea February 1990. Their success cut the major supply line to the Second Ethiopian Army in Asmara, which then had to be supplied by air. In response, Mengistu Haile Mariam ordered the city bombed from the air, resulting in considerable damage, although as of 2005 this is currently being rebuilt by the Eritrean government.

[edit] Other features

Image:Massawa, Eritrea (Ottoman architecture).jpg
An example of Ottoman architecture in the old section of Massawa, Eritrea.
Massawa is also home to a naval base, large dhow docks, the Massawa International Airport and a railway line to Asmara. Ferries sail to the Dahlak Islands and nearby Green Island.

Notable buildings in the city include the fifteenth century Sheikh Hanafi Mosque and various houses of coral. Many Ottoman buildings survive, such as the bazaar. Later buildings include the Imperial Palace, rebuilt in 1872 for Werner Munzinger; St Mariam Cathedral; the 1930s Villa Melotti and the 1920s Banco d'Italia. The Eritrean War of Independence is commemorated in a memorial of three tanks in the middle of Massawa.

[edit] References

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Coordinates: 15°36′33″N, 39°26′43″E

de:Massawa es:Massawa fr:Massaua id:Massawa it:Massaua he:מסוע (עיר) lt:Masava nl:Massawa ja:マッサワ pl:Massawa sv:Massawa


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