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massawa4Massawa has a chequered history dating back thousands of years.  The ancient Greeks and Egyptians regarded it as an important trading point and in the centuries that followed it became a regional prize worth fighting over.

The Turks established control of Massawa in the 16th and 17th centuries when it became a major outlet for trade in slaves, pearls, hides and fish.  Massawa Island, the heart of the old Turkish settlement, was joinedto Twalet Island by a causeway.  Massawa Island houses the port:  the older part of the town.  It has ancient coral buildings and arcades that reflect the Turkish influence, as well as even older mosques that represent the Muslim influence.  There are also homes built in the Ottoman style of the 18th century.  Here, too is the old Moorish town with its splendid shops, arcades, cafés and restaurants.


It is said that the Sahaba prophet Mohammed’s Companions first landed at “Ressi Medri”, which is the centre of Massawa harbour and this is now considered as a sacred site.  Within the Massawa area we also find very old mosques, which may be associated with this and other early Islamic contacts.  The Shafi Mosque, for example, is one of the oldest mosques in Africa.  This mosque is about 1000 years old and is believed to have been built by the Companions of the first Hijra to Habasha in 615 AD.

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