Asmara, the capital of Eritrea has officially been labeled a World Heritage site by the United Nations Education, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
This follows after years of lobbying by the country’s government.
Nestled close to the Red Sea, bordered by Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti on different sides, the people Eritrea have since maintained that their capital, also known as “Little Rome” is incomparable to any other city in Africa.
A claim that was finally accepted by the UN cultural body during a meeting of the World Heritage Committee in the Polish city of Krakow over the past weekend.
In announcing its decision on Saturday, Unesco called the city “an exceptional example of early modernist urbanism at the beginning of the 20th century and its application in an African context.”
The country’s ambassador to France and permanent representative to UNESCO, Hanna Simon, said the recognition brought the city “tremendous pride and joy” as well as “a profound sense of responsibility and duty.” She hailed the World Heritage stating that it was a victory and cause for the world to celebrate.
According to her, it took “years of research, planning and campaigning,” to achieve the feat and that the “victory (was) not just for the Eritrean people but for Africa and the world at large.”
The city’s Modernist buildings include an Art Deco bowling alley and the Fiat Tagliero building, a service station shaped something like an airplane, with a central tower supporting a pair of 60-foot cantilevered wings.
There is also a garage, built in 1937, that resembles the hull of a ship with porthole windows. The Bar Zilli building looks like an old-fashioned radio set, with windows like tuning buttons.
In addition to Asmara, Unesco named two other World Heritage sites in Africa on Saturday: Mbanza Kongo, the remains of the former royal capital of the Kingdom of Kongo, in present-day Angola, and the ancestral lands of the Khomani San people, in South Africa near the borders of Botswana and Namibia.
On Sunday, the organization added three sites on other continents: the ancient Hellenic city of Aphrodisias in southwestern Turkey; the Lake District in northwestern Britain; and the Valongo Wharf in Rio de Janeiro.