The Eritrean capital of Asmara is a vibrant mix of African culture and Italian architecture.
Founded in the twelfth century by a union of villages trying to protect themselves from bandits, Asmara has grown to become a bustling city of over half a million people. Over its history, the city has endured the rule of various empires and countries, including the Italian Empire from the late 19th century, the British from after World War II and Ethiopia from 1950. After a long and bloody war with Ethiopia, Asmara was finally liberated in 1991 and became the capital of a country which had not had self-rule for two centuries. Today, it is difficult to walk down a street in downtown Asmara and not see an old Italian building. In the early 1930s, Mussolini, the Italian dictator, injected huge amounts of funds into the city with the goal of making it the centre of a second Roman Empire that spanned Africa. Architects were only limited by their imagination, and practically the entire city centre was rebuilt. Not only were cathedrals built in ancient-Romanesque style, but also numerous offices influenced by the architectural movements of cubism and futurism.