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From Asmara to Keren and Agordat

Guida dell'Africa Orientale Italiana

5. - From Asmara to Keren and Agordat.

Map on page 192.


TRAIN (95 cm. gauge) 190 km in 5 hrs 45 min.; departs Asmara Mon., Wed. and Fri.; from Agordat Tue., Thu. and Sat. Prices: from Asmara to Keren by Littorina Lire 49.95 (by passenger-freight train Lire 21.85), round trip Lire 74.90; from Asmara to Agordat by Littorina Lire 91.20 (by passenger-freight train Lire 39.90), round trip Lire 136.80. Beautiful line through very interesting and varied countryside; preferably sit on the right side to Keren, then on the left.

THE RAILROAD FROM ERITREA TO SOMALIA. The accord of 1906 among Italy, France and Great Britain permitted Italy to construct a railroad connecting Eritrea to Somalia passing to the West of Addis Ababa, intended to develop the Western and Southern regions of Ethiopia. In 1915, the Ministry of Colonies sent a technician from the State Railways, Engineer Enrico Pastore, to study the general route. Eng. Pastore began the survey, which was particularly difficult because of the conditions in Ethiopia during the world war, from Addis Ababa on May 7, 1916, heading toward Ambò, Billò and Gimma; there he pushed North, passing Lechémti and crossing the Blue Nile at the Aradaurà ford; he continued via Debra Marcos, Buriè, Danghila, and Gondar and entered Eritrea on November 27 of the same year. The route surveyed leaves Om Áger, reaches Noggára, then Celgà to the West of Gondar; there, following the watershed to the West of Lake Tana, it passes Ismalà Ghiorghis. It follows the watershed between the Little Abbai to the East and the basin of the Balás, passes near Danghila and, staying ever on the highland, it reaches Buriè. It descends to the South along the Valley of the Fetàm to cross the Blue Nile near the Mabil ford or the Locmàn ford; it reascends the highland, crosses the Valley of the Angùr River, and reaches the Mountains of Lechémti (watershed between the Blue Nile and the Omo), which it crosses at aprrox. 2100 m near Mt. Egù. It follows the right bank of the Ghibie to the confluence of the Ghibie of Gimma. Beyond this point the route was not studied, but it is presumed it could follow the Valley of the Omo to the Oncurè waterfall, then cross the valley of the Lakes and continue through the valleys flowing to the Giuba near Dolo.

Asmara, p. 197. The line circles the Southeast part of the city, through very new neighborhoods; Km. 2 Gaggirèt stop. The railway continues to the Southwest; to the left, lightly rolling plain which is sprouting new construction. Soon it turns to the West and, after crossing the Asmara-Decamere highway, it continues on the plain circumscribed by low hills; to the right, Fort Baldissera and the Polo Field, p. 206. Two km from the highway crossing to the left, a siding (1 km) splits off for the Torrigiani Establishment (to the left, the area of the Sembèl, completely cultivated). The characteristic reddish cone of Mt. Cuddocuddù, 2340 m, falls away to the right; to the left, the peaks of the high Valley of the Marèb. The trip begins to liven up; Km 11 Zada Crestiàn, 2300 m, to the right, amid concessions. The line begins to descend via a small valley that is the beginning of the Ánseba.

Km 20 Zaazegà, elev. approx. 2200 m, to the left; the descent is faster; it leaves the course of the Ánseba which is seen to the left (panorama to the left of the Mountains of the Medembùr), turns in a very tight curve along the Asfàt Mountains and again arrives at the Ánseba which will not be left for a long way. Here the valley has the name Gherenà, and it is covered with picturesque woods of euphorbia. After passing a narrow stretch, Km 31, Dem Sebai, alt. approx. 2050 m; granite sand quarries. The valley widens a little; the line heads to the North and, soon, in front of Mt. Ánseba, 2270 m, it reaches the station of Adennà, Km 39, elev. approx. 1900 m, to the left. It continues the descent following the curves of the river. After approx. five km, to the right, the opening from the deep and wild Valley of the Toccòr which carries to the Ánseba the waters of a vast area North of Asmara. It curves around the slopes of the conical, blackish Mt. Embascenè, 2029 m, to the left; where the valley widens, Km 48, Abrascicò, elev. approx. 1800 m, to the left. The line follows the Ánseba (to the right), now wide and sandy, ever in sight of the last branchings of the highland (to the right). The vegetation takes on a tropical character. Km 59 Amba Derho of the Ánseba, approx. 1780 m, to the right; the town is about 40 minutes to the right, on small heights (1912 m). The sharp pinnacle of Mt. Scindoà, 2105 m, which will be visible until after Éla Behrèd, appears. The line twists in the narrowing valley bottom; soon the Ánseba, which splits off to the right, is left behind and the line enters a long narrow gorge with short tunnels to emerge in a wide valley dominated, at the end and to the left, by Mt. Suardùm, 2379 m.

Km 78 Éla Behrèd or Barèd, approx. 1490 m, to the right, a station where products from the concessions (citrus fruits, vegetables, agave fiber, etc) flow in. A highway leads in about 30 minutes to the concessions (principally those of Lawyer Casciani, 2470 acres, and the Acquisto brothers) and then to the Asmara-Keren highway, p. 222. Here and there gigantic sycamores and a few baobab appear. The line descends to the foot of Mt. Suardùm, again meets the Ánseba, and climbs halfway up the slope in a narrow wooded valley. A few short tunnels and the Asmara-Keren highway is crossed; Km 92 Halìb Mentèl, elev. 1430 m, to the left. The characteristic bilene tombs, covered with white quartz stones, begin to appear. The line continues along the twisting passage of the mountains, finally leaving the Ánseba. Toward the opening of the wild narrow valley of the Gabèr Darasà, to the left, one encounters, on the right and at the bottom, the Keren outpost and, further on, Mt. Laalambà. Km. 102 Keren-Tantarùa indigenous village, elev. approx. 1390 m, to the right, a white station serving the Moslem village. The Arèi River is crossed on the high viaduct. To the left, further down, the truck garden and citrus orchard of the Catholic Mission; to the right, a panoramic view of Keren, dominated by the mosque and outpost. Km 104 Keren, a charming station.

KEREN, properly Kerèn (mount), elev. 1392 m., pop. approx. 9700, including some 700 Italians (Hotels: Imperiale, under construction, Senhait, 8 rooms, good rest. and café; Peppino, 4 rooms, rest. and café; Sicilia, 6 rooms; Martino Rest.; post office, telegraph, telephone; pharmacy and infirmary; movie theatre), seat of the commissariat of the same name, situated at medium altitude in a depression of the Valley of the Ánseba, it is a charming white garden town with a mild climate which makes the trip very enjoyable. Its buildings, for the most part small villas with verandas, are encircled by perennially flowering gardens. Keren, at the center of beautiful concessions (agave, tobacco, coffee, fruit, especially citrus, bananas, papaya, and vegetables), is also an interesting market town, where locals from Senhaìt, Sáhel and Barca assemble. Typical industry of silver necklaces.

[further description of Keren and excursions from Keren are omitted]
The line leaves Keren in an Easterly direction and, in a cut, it curves below the Gumscia area and Mt. Sanchìl, 1786 m., to the right. To the left, view of Mt. Zebàn, 1717 m, and Mts. Scetèl, 1862 m, and Scialacò, 1933 m, which form the South side of the Bogù-Hagàs Valley. Km 12 Asciadíra, elev. approx. 1100 m, on the right, a stop in a cool gorge. The line continues to descend, passes a very wide hill between Mt. Tafalà, 1335 m, to the right, and an unnamed peak of 1257 m to the left, enters the Valley of the Arobà and, leveling off, arrives at Húmmed, Km 25, elev. 950 m; excursion to Zaàd Ambà, p. 213. To the left, ahead, the characteristic rocky mass of Mt. Sheikh Idris, 1144 m, is seen. To the left, a mule path splits off, which, in 3:30 hrs, reaches the cartway to Ascerà, p.213, and Mansura in the Sciotel. The line is now level and follows the right bank of the Agat River. It rounds Mt. Sciabòr, 1167 m, to the right, and after crossing a small riverbed arrives at, Km 33, Agat, elev. 875 m. The line is now on the plain, with dense vegetation of spiny acacia and a few fields of sorghum; here and there a few dum palms begin to be seen. The line follows the bank of the Agat River and crosses it. Km 42 Darotai, elev. 790 m, near the wells of the same name; the view to the rear, to the left, is Mt. Sheikh Idris. It crosses the Agat River, which here is called the Bogù, and in a narrow stretch reaches, at Km 50, the station of Mai Adartè, elev. 725 m, with the remains of an outpost constructed during the campaign against the Dervishes (Jan.-Feb., 1897). It turns to the South to round Mt. Tahàm, 988 m, to the right; to the left, beautiful view of rocky Mt. Huoddisciòt, 1031 m. It passes and repasses the Tahàm River and reaches the region of the Carobèl River, magnificent forest, in which tamarisk (obel), which reach enormous size, predominate. Km 63 Umfutàt, elev. approx. 650 m. The line cuts across a curve of the Carobèl and, continuing along the rolling plain, reaches the Barca River in a thick, picturesque forest of dum palms. It crosses the river on the great bridge of armored concrete (1937), over which the highway also passes, and enters the wood where the battle of Agordat took place (Dec. 21, 1893), see p. 219.

Km 190 AGORDAT (el Gurdet), elev. 615 m., pop. 2050, including 168 Italians (Hotels: Rest. Barca, 4 rooms; Alfredo; Moderno; Rest. and Café Metropolitano; post office, telegraph, telephone; pharmacy; "Arimondi" hospital for Europeans and indigenous; Italian-Arab school; electrical service; ice; movie theatre), seat of the Commissariat of the Western Lowlands, situated in the high Valley of the Barca River, amid a broad panorama of mountains, it is an important center for its market (especially cattle and sorghum), visited by Béni Amèr, Bária and Cunáma.

. . . As far as Biscia, the road runs through the the same countryside as a RAIL TRUNK (37 km in 45 min.), covered by special trains, which must yet be extended to Tessenei and Om Áger, from where it will cross Ethiopia to meet the line from Somalia, p.211.



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