Northern Red Sea Region: Museum within a Museum ( Part III and final)
Adulis- the ancient port- which is now a buried city- was believed to be the main center of interactions among the highland cities is situated in the Northern Red Sea region. One section of the regional museum represents historic facts of ancient civilizations around Adulis area that stretch from 800 B.C- to early 8th century. The relics in this section of the museum depict what the appearance of the buried city used to be, the interactions between Adulis and other centers within the region and with international centers and also the livelihood of the people who lived there.
Amphoras discovered in the coastal areas and from the inlands of the Northern Red Sea region were once used for packaging olive oil, cereal crops and grapes that were imported from the ports of the Mediterranean Sea. These varied types of amphora are reflections of the life styles practiced during the ancient eras in the south Asia, Egypt, and the Southern Arabia.
The museum of the Northern Red Sea region is resource centers that provides necessary information and preliminary insight to those interested in conducting further researches and who also wish to visit the ancient city just for tourism.
Civilizations that emerged in the Dahlak Islands during the 9th century are continuations of the civilizations that started in Adulis. These ancient civilizations of the Dahlak islands are uniquely represented in the regional museum. Tablets of Kufic Arabic inscriptions of the period between 8th –to-12th century from Dahlak Islands present to visitor knowledge of the progressive civilizations that emerged some 10 centuries ago.
The introduction of Christianity in around 320 AD and the introduction of Islam in around 615 AD was altogether through the same coastal areas of this region. The Northern Red Sea region, thus, harbors unique traces of this history and other relics. Situated in Ri’si Mdri, Sahaba Mosque which was constructed some 1426 years ago is still firmly standing and keeping its original designs though at a shabby conditions. 500 years old Shafi’e and Hanaf Mosques that are also situated in this region are embracing in them huge historical assets. In its present capacity, the regional museum holds representations of all these historical buildings and others.
The architectural influences of the Turkish and Egyptians are also vividly represented in the museum. Construction techniques, materials and ingredients that were used in construction and boats manufacturing procedures and other items that represent the development phases that continued for three century until the 19th century are clearly displayed in the museum.
Since representations of all these parts of architectural history and others are still largely depicted in the port city of Massawa, visitors need not to be confined in the museum. This Museum always collaborates with people who are interested in knowing the history of the port city of Massawa and for those aspiring to retain information about the presence of Turkish and Egyptians during the ancient era.
During the period of Scramble for Africa by European colonizers in the 19th century, Italians start to focus on the Red Sea. In 1890, Italy declared Eritrea as its colony. Photographs of Massawa during the Italian colonial Era are also displayed in the regional Museum. The varied phases of colonial developments until full occupation of the country, leaves huge traces in the Northern Red Sea region. The establishment of a modern Massawa, through the construction of bridges that connected Massawa with the island of Twalet and with other inlands, the construction of a modern port, railway, ropeway and asphalted roads was among their priorities.
Besides, a photography that shows Massawa’s view after the earth quake of 1923 among other photographs is displayed in the museum. Apart from what has been mentioned earlier, one could also learn a great deal of Eritrea’s modern history from the traces that are still scattered throughout the region. The history of British colonial era and the developments that followed after the Italians are also vividly depicted in the museum. For instance, the yoking of Eritrea with Ethiopia through federation and the coming of imperial colonization are also represented through household items of emperor Hileshasie such as bed of the emperor’s wife and other furnitures.
What followed the unjust Ethiopian occupation was the launching of the struggle for independence in 1961. One section of the museum includes representative items of this historic development which left unfading traces of the bitter wars. The creative abilities of the freedom fighters in modifying heavy artilleries like making modifications to a 40 nozzles (Stalin’s organ) also known as B.M-21 artillery into a single nozzle weapon and other wonders are represented in real objects and in photographs. The war incidents that are displayed in the museum takes one to the wars held around Buya and to memories of the two decisive operations that were held to liberate Masssawa and to the atrocities committed in She’eb and to the historic trenches of Nakfa.
Here, in this section of the museum, one could see an over repaired plastic sandal of the freedom fighters. While making a detailed observation over this plastic sandal one could notice the selfless sacrifices of the fighters who abandoned any materialist notions towards the common cause. They fought with the well armed and well trained armies of the colonizers without having a shoe to wear. Remnant shrapnel that are scattered everywhere and the damages that befall on the ancient buildings of Massawa are included in the museum. Fighters’ arms, primitive and sophisticated machine gun of the colonizers are some of the items that could amuse any visitor.
The regional museum indeed holds numerous items that could not be described here. But to mention some, the following items are included there: a granite post of the period between 4th and 7th century from the remnants of ancient Adulis palaces, a photograph of a more than 600 years old Bizien Monastery, traditional household utensils and other items made from wood, a wooden bell, shields made up of elephants skin, hunting tools, traditional weapons such as swords and traces of a Shipwreck that represent a glorious trading activities around the Red Sea coastal areas and much more.
At this time, the entire region is enjoying peace and tranquility. It is now witnessing reconstruction activities, such as housing projects that have been implemented in the port city of Massawa and other places of the region, renovation of railway roads and steam locomotives. All the cities within the region that were heading towards total devastation have started to flourish, vegetation has been redressed, wildlife has been abundantly increasing, and the port has begun to give services in a full fledged manner. Every thing is just restored into its normal conditions. People are enjoying the coastal area through swimming in the Red Sea and basking along the beaches and birds of different colors have been flocking over the peaceful skies.
One should remember here that the regional museum that was established during the 10 anniversary of Operation Fenkil has a potential to be upgraded and expanded so as to jointly hold all the ancient relics and every thing that have not yet discovered. All in all, the museum has a capacity to document things that would be discovered and wonders that would be accomplished in the post independence period. Being a smaller portion of the National Museum in Asmara, the Museum of the Northern Red Sea region is partially representing the over all history of the country. Thus, the entire region is, in a broader sense, a natural museum but for those who can not make tours throughout the region, the regional museum essentially provides important information of historic, cultural and natural assets of the country.