Eritrea is a north-eastern African country. It borders Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Asmara, the capital city, is known for its Italian colonial buildings, such as Art Deco buildings.
Egyptian, Italian, and Turkish architecture in Massawa shows the colorful history of the port city. Notable buildings in Eritrea include St. Mary’s Cathedral and the imperial palace. However, there are some interesting facts about Eritrea that you will never know.
Some fascinating facts about Eritrea
1. Government defines your profession
Where you are assigned, that’s where you work until you retire. During compulsory military service, the government selects certain people and assigns them to work in areas where they are needed, and this is mainly in the field of teaching. Therefore, you have zero chance of making a change or decision.
2. Many Eritreans leave illegally
Getting a passport after years of national military service is by chance. If you finally manage to get a passport, you won’t be able to leave the country until you get an exit visa. And there is no guarantee that you will get one because the government is obviously afraid that you will not return to the country when you leave.
Thus, many young Eritreans leave illegally, crossing porous borders to settle in Ethiopia and Sudan. Others risk a treacherous journey across the Sahara and the Mediterranean to reach Europe, only to die of starvation and thirst in the desert or drown in the sea.
3. Asmara is lovely
Being the United Nations heritage site, Asmara is one of the most beautiful cities globally. It was built by Italian Fascist dictator Mussolini during the era of colonization.
4. No traffic
There is very little or no traffic in Eritrea due to the country’s small number of cars. People are impoverished, and few can afford to buy a car. Therefore, transportation is done mainly by bicycle. This is one of the reasons why cycling is a prevalent sport in the country.
5. SIM cards are scarce
In Eritrea, there is only a telecommunication network service provider, which is EriTel. The service it provides is poor and tightly controlled by the government. Citizens have to go to the local administration and underwent vigorous screening to get a SIM card.
6. Internet access is over 1%.
After getting a Sim card, the probability that you can’t access the network is very high. Reason? There is no mobile data. People can only access the internet via Wi-Fi, but this is limited. The government censors social media, so people use VPN to access Facebook and Twitter.
7. Totalitarian government
President Isaias Afwerki has ruled Eritrea since independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Therefore, no election. Afwerki has said that in the next 40 years, he is not sure if there will be anything resembling democracy or elections.
8. No ATMs
Oh! I’m out of cash. Where can I cash out with my card? Such doesn’t exist in Eritrea. Cash withdrawals can only be made through bank counters. The government has imposed limits on the number of money depositors can withdraw from their bank accounts.
Even if you have millions of Nakfa, Eritrean currency, you can only withdraw 5,000 ($330) per month in your account. The only exception is if you have a wedding coming up, you have to go to the local government officials and have officials write a letter to your bank asking your bank to allow you to withdraw more than 5000 nakfas.
9. One local TV station
The only television station based in Eritrea is Eri-Tv. The worst part, it is a propaganda machine of the government. But if you have a satellite dish, you can watch the other international channels, BBC and ERISAT, which are run by political emigres.
10. Maximum of two bottles of beer
If you want to drink more than two beers, you have to mingle with non-drinkers and drink on their behalf. There is only one brewery in Eritrea – Asmara Brewery.
11. Compulsory Military National Service
Eritrea is a military state and is often involved in armed conflicts with its neighbors. There is forced conscription of children right from primary school, and there is no deadline for completing the National Service. You can serve in the army for years, and it is compulsory for both males and females.