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Eye Opening Tour To The Southern Red Sea Region: Land Of Dankalia

Part I

The Southern Red Sea Region is one of the six regions of the country endowed with rich natural resources, spectacular landscapes and historical sites. The region, which is located within the Great Rift Valley of Eastern Africa, is 23, 384 square kilometers out of which 49% is a plain and sandy land and 44% mountainous and hilly. Moreover, the region is endowed with around 30 islands of different sizes. Most of the islands possess spectacular landscapes very attractive to conduct variety of tourism activities such as swimming, diving and camping.  The region comprises of four administrative sub-zones with 72 villages and 31 administrative localities.

The population size in the region reaches about 66, 720 of which 85% lead nomadic life and 15% depend on small-scale trade and fishing. The Southern Red Sea Region enjoys different climate including cold and temperate climates in the areas of 500-2000 meters above sea level and hot and warm climate around the sea shore areas. Seven percent of the region is also covered with volcanic soil and rocks believed to be rich in different minerals that could have the potential in the mining industry of the country. As some historical evidences reveal there have been several volcanic eruptions in the region. It is said that the ashes from the eruption in 1856 were felt in some parts of southern Yemen. The incident is still remembered as “the year of smoke.”  What makes the Southern Red Sea region attractive for tourism industry is its richness in marine, domestic and wild animals. The islands are potential breading places for sea turtles, species which are in danger of extinction world wide.

Hence, the presence of these sea turtles is a blessing for Eritrea for those who are particularly sea turtle loving tourists. With proper preservation of this sea animal Eritrea could be in the world map where sea turtles are well cared and attract scientific researches and thereby play its due role in promoting tourism. The Southern Rea Sea region is blessed with around 600 kilometers of coast line. The hinterland is very gorgeous with its white sandy plains, mountains with temperate and cold climate, salt lakes, hot springs, natural foam, and fertile land suitable for farming cereals and vegetables. The wild life of the region includes gazelles, ostriches, wild donkeys, foxes and others. Camels, goats and cattle are among the domestic animals found in the region. Camel is one of the basic means of transportation in the region. It is commonly seen that people, especially those who lead nomadic life use camels carrying household utensils and make shift dwellings from place to place where they could find grazing fields and water supplies for themselves and their animals. Cruising through the around 670 kilometers of asphalt and all weather road from Massawa to Assab that goes side by side with the sea is a lifetime experience every one would like to benefit from and enjoy.

Except in some places between Foro and Gelalo the all weather road is intact and smooth to travel for about 80 to 90 kilometers per hour with a land cruiser. During traveling one enjoys the sea breathe and sandy and hot plain in between watching gazelles and ostriches roaming in search of food and water. Southern Red Sea region as a lot of promotion so that people well informed on what the region offers for local and international tourists and plan to visit it. And it was as part of the timely aim to promote the region and its potential resources for tourism industry that a group of experts, journalists and others, led by Mrs. Askalu Menkorios, Minster of Tourism, conducted eye opening tour to the region from 10 to 16 of January 2011. The tour was and eye opening for the region due to its location and with the newly built road that connects Massawa with Assab has been less visited and less known by the general public. Hence, the tour would have an important limestone for promoting what the region holds in terms of natural resources, historical sites, the culture and way of life of the people and the huge investment the government is making to change the life of the inhabitants to the better. The fishing processing plants, the factory for building boats of different sizes, the referral hospital, schools and clinics in the remote parts of the region and construction of the road out of a rugged and very Volcanic Rocks challenging terrain are some of the many visible witnesses for the government’s efforts being exerted in the region.    The first destination of the tour was in Assab where the group had the chance of visiting the particular place where the sale of Assab was negotiated and signed between local chieftains and an Italian priest by the name of Giuseppe Sapeto. Giuseppe Sapeto acting on behalf of a Genovese shipping company called Rubattino in 1869 purchased the locality of Assab, Ras Lema, for 8,100 Maria Teresa, from the Afar Sultan of Ausa. The agreement between the priest and the Sultan was signed in a ship called Nasrel al-Majid. That signing ceremony to transfer power from the Sultan to the Italians makes Assab very unique in the history of Eritrea.

Assab was the first to fall under colonialism and the last one to be emancipated from the yoke of colonialism by the Eritrean People’s Liberation Forces in 26 May, 1991, after eighty four years or so of rule by successive colonizers. Since then the city has become an important port for mlocal and international trade. It was chosen for its strategic location near the straits of Bab el Mandeb, and the possibility that it could become an important trading station between the Horn and Arabian Peninsula. Giuseppe Sapeto not only negotiated for the purchase of Assab but was also responsible in introducing Catholicism in the region. In the center of the city we find an old Church built by him in 1886. Assab now is a modern port. The city is divided into three parts: Assab Seghir (small Assab) on the shoreline, Assab Kebir (big Assab) in the center of town, containing the port and the city center and nestling behind it is the rather shanty town Campo Sudan. There are extensive salt flats around Assab. 

Continued From Page 4Ras LemaUpon arrival to the city Port of Assab the tour participants were met by the region’s government offi cials, military commanders and by the inhabitants of the city. The months of January and February are appropriate months to visit Assab for the climate is temperate where new comers do not feel the torch heat of the region. Next day the tour was to head to Rahaita, to visit what the old Sultanate of Rahaita has to offer for the group in terms of its history and its remains.


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