Arbe Robue: The first Village Perched on the Road to Massawa

About Eritrea - History & Culture

On the road to Massawa, 11 kms east of Asmara, you find the village Arbe Robue. In harmony with the natural landscape, the hairpin road looks like a sticker over the hills and leads you to Massawa.

As you travel you cannot help but attentively observe the scenery and its diverse life. The stable and not too cold wind blows around inducing a feeling of joy and relaxation, making you admire nature.

The different sized mountains seem to be holding a height contest; Aba Gamzay tops them all being the super mountain it is. It seems to be racing to touch the sky. Arbe Robue lies in the middle of those tall mountains. As you approach the village, its natural setting holds your gaze to its beauty.

Arbe Robue enjoys a mixture of the highland and lowland climate. It is said that many years ago, when some nomads were travelling from the highland to the sea, they ran across nomads travelling in the opposite direction. The lowlanders offered the highlanders milk, which they declined because they said it was Wednesday (Robue). On another similar encounter, the lowlanders presented the same offer which the highlanders refused to accept because they said it was Friday (Arbi). Wednesdays and Fridays are fasting days for Orthodox Christians and on such days people are not supposed to eat or drink animal products including milk. The name Arbe Robue is said to be linked to this story.

Arbe Robue is known to have been settled by people many years ago but it was during the Italian colonization that it was established as a village. Today, Arbe Robue is a village of 150 households who live in houses made of stones and bricks and also traditional houses like hdmo. Three kms down the road to Seidshi, Arbe Robue looks like a beautiful garden of white flowers, the houses resembling white flowers among the extensive cactus plants.

The residents of Arbe Robue are followers of two religions: Islam and Christianity. There is a church as well as a mosque and the people live in harmony and mutual respect and tend to any social occasion. The administrators, Mr. Nafie Ibrahim and Desale Ghebrenegus, a priest, note that they solve any misunderstanding and conflict among people by deliberating on issues as they arise and if an issue does not get resolved it is passed onto the local court where the jurors are elected from the people and by the people.

The people of Arbe Robue are engaged in farming, raising animals and trade. The crops mainly grown are barley, wheat, sorghum, peas, chickpeas and corn. The soil in Arbe Robue is also suitable for growing vegetables and fruits. People who live in Arbe Robue are said to have a long life span. Mr. Saleh Jebera, who was born and raised in Arbe Robue, is 118. The longevity may have to do with the landscape of Arbe Robue, which makes it necessary for the residents to walk up and down a lot in the course of a day. This must have made the people athletic and healthy. Tmnit Hayelom, a cyclist and winner of many races, was born and raised there.

Though Arbe Robue has rivers flowing down the hills, its main source of water is Aba Gamzay. The village is found right at the bottom of the mountain and when it rains every drop of water from the mountain is made to flow down through tubes to reservoirs that were built during the Italian colonization. They were well built and have strainers to prevent solid matter from reaching the reservoirs. The durability and quality of the reservoirs is proven by the excellent service they give, i.e. securing water supply that is enough for the whole year.

The railway track that was also built during Italian colonization, long before it was introduced in other African countries, matches the zigzag landscape, adding to the beauty of the place. The tracks are attractive to tourists and extend from Asmara to Massawa.

The railway was rendered out of use during the struggle for Eritrea’s independence. However, following an initiative taken in April 1994 to rehabilitate it, the railway was reconstructed and became operational in February 2003. It extends from Asmara to Massawa. The railway is today used by domestic and international tourists. Its undeniable beauty attracts people to have many recreation activities such as taking wedding photos. It is a place that fills visitors with a refreshed and joyful mood.

The natural setting in Arbe Robue is in its original and undisturbed state. It is full of a variety of species of trees and vegetation along with vines and lianas. Especially during summer, the mountains of Arbe Robue are fully green. The sun, moon and stars are in harmony with the natural and beautiful setting of the place. The sun rise through the mountains and the sunset are worth watching. This place is very rich in natural resources of not only vegetation but also domestic and wild life. Wild animals such as tigers, hyenas, monkeys, the fox and rabbit and colorful birds give the dawn a nice start. The domestic animals in Arbe Robue do not need a herder. They go out, feed themselves and come back to their respective homes when the sun sets. As in many parts of Eritrea, Arbe Robue has extensive cactus fruit fields. The advantage of the cactus fruit in this area is that it serves as animal feed, human food as well as firewood when dried.

Bees are also a significant portion of the animal life in Arbe Robue. Honey collected from the area is known to have unique taste and content. The thick mist that surrounds the village like white sheet is sometimes still and sometimes in fast motion creating different shapes over the village and displaying a white rather than green Arbe Robue. At times, the mist settles down at the bottom of the mountains resembling a white lake. Many people prefer not to drive along the roads of Arbe Robue when the weather is misty because of the low visibility.