Pictures by Bana Fithi from Asmara
Asmara's Crumbling Buildings
Let the pictures speak- Part I
Asmara has many a time been hailed as one of the most beautiful and cleanest cities in Africa (www.asmara-architecture.com/Dossier_engl.pdf; I Didn't Do It for You, Michela Wrong, 2005; Facts about Eritrea, Aradom Tedla, 1964). At times it has even been compared to cities in Europe. In the 1960's the late Yonus Ibrahim sang Asmara's praises putting it on a par with Paris and other European cities. Some of his lyrics went like this,
"Asmera ketema, tsebiqu edlki
hadisom melki'om kulom hntsatatki
mn'as Edenbra, n Paris mesilki
(city of Asmara, you have been bestowed favor
all your buildings are new and magnificent
you look a younger sister of Edinburgh and take after Paris. )
The particular era the singer referred to was one when Asmara was the hub of industrial and commercial activities, and enjoyed construction boom (thanks to Italian industrialists, entrepreneurs and developers as well as visionary and enterprising Eritreans such as Mayor Haregot Abay, Dejazmatch, who saw to it that the city moved with the times in harmony with its glorious architectural past). The time Yonus had in mind was also a time when Arab Emirs visited hospitals in Asmara for medical checkup as some people from Eritrea go to Dubai today for medical treatment. That was a time when Asmara's main streets were flushed with water hoses week in, week out and Asmara reserved for itself the honor of being the first city in the world to introduce electrical-power driven trucks (www.unitedheartz.com/index.php/eri-guest/100-jhj).
Today, that time looks a far-fetched story. Asmara is only a shadow and a skeleton of its former self. Asmara's acclaimed beauty and cleanliness is being reduced to a myth under the PFDJ gang in the face of increasing decay of its buildings, dilapidation of its infrastructure and fetid streets. A city that was spared the onslaught of battling armies in 1991 is now under the serious threat of disintegration in the hands of the so-called its own sons and daughters. What is the PFDJ up to?