By Gokhan Karakas | for Milliyet Newspaper,
The Embassy opened by Turkey in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea in 2013 is one of our newest diplomatic missions.
The first ever Turkish Ambassador in Eritrea, Fırat Sunel has been trying to promote this little, exotic and mysterious country which proclaimed its independence in 1993 after the 30 year long war of liberation with Ethiopia.
Ambassador Sunel believes that Eritrea, with its 2300 km coastline, 350 coral islands and with only 5.5 million population, is one of the hidden paradises on earth. He says: “I have been here for two years. Hosting 9 ethnic groups and two significant monotheistic religion such as Islam and Christianity, Eritrea is a gift of nature.”
Massawa: The Old Ottoman City
Ambassador Sunel explains that after 1555 during the era of Kanuni Sultan Süleyman Eritrea became part of the Ottoman Empire. Afterwards it became an Italian colony until the World War II and was later ruled by the UK. The country proclaimed its independence in 1993. The Ambassador tells that the Sheikh Hamal and Al-Shafi Mosques from 16th century in the old Ottoman city Massawa near the Red sea are still open for prayers. Hundreds of draw wells made by the Ottomans are still in use in Dahlak Archipelago as well.
The Ambassador also says “While you are walking around old Massawa houses which were built of coral blocks, you feel like you are in a journey throughout history in Ottoman era. The country is also significant for the history of Islam. The Sahaba Mosque, built in 615 AD in Eritrea is known as the first ever mosque in which the qibla was oriented towards Jerusalem”.
Ambassador Sunel who is actively involved in many outdoor activities also guided personally to the first diver group from Turkey and showed them the beauty of the underwater life of Eritrean Red Sea. Sunel dived with one of the most prominent Turkish underwater photographer Bedri Sincar and his crew to show the coral reefs with an organization made by the diving center owned by the Eritrean Government.
7 Hour Direct Flight
The premises of the Turkish Embassy is located centrally very popular neighborhood of the city and reflects the characteristics of the early republican period architecture in Anatolia. Asmara which is also known as “Little Rome” is quite colorful with its cathedrals, mosques, bazaars, cafes and the buildings which makes you feel like you are in Italy.
The silent and safe country gets one’s attention with the smiling faces of people. The coffee culture is also as common as it is in Turkey. The coffee beans, grinded in a stone mortar by hand and roasted with the wood fire, remind us the smell and the taste that we know in Anatolia. Turkish Airlines has 7 hour direct flights from İstanbul to Asmara.
“Milliyet”, is one of the most prominent newspapers in Turkey with a daily nationwide circulation . It recently published an article about Eritrea, the Eritrean Red Sea and Ambassador Firat Sunel, the first ever Ambassador of Turkey to Eritrea.