Ah, Asmara. Arrive here on a clear day, and you’ll fall in love with this diamond of a capital. Peaceful neighbourhoods, pavement cafés with vintage Italian coffee machines, cheery pizza parlours, tantalising pastry shops, a relaxed pace of life… You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a southern Italian town. And there’s the fabulous architecture, with a melee of architectural wonders from the Italian era. The balmy climate is another draw: Asmara is bathed in sunshine eight months of the year.
Alas, it’s too good to be true. The battered economy and the clampdown on civil liberties have taken their toll over past years, and it shows. Gone is the dolce vita (life of luxury) – belt-tightening is now the order of the day, with power cuts, queues in front of food stores, slack business, and deserted streets at night.
One thing is sure, though: Asmara remains one of the most agreeable cities in Africa and it will be one of the highlights of your African journey.