Asmara (äsmäˈrä, äz–) [key], city (1996 est. pop. 400,000), capital of Eritrea, at an altitude of c.7,300 ft (2,225 m). The name also appears as Asmera. A commercial and industrial center, it is connected by rail and highway with the Red Sea port of Massawa. Textiles and clothing, processed meat, beer, shoes, and ceramics are the major industrial products. Asmara was a small village until the 1880s, when it became an Ethiopian regional administrative center. Occupied by the Italians in 1889, it became (1900) the capital of the Italian colony of Eritrea. In the 1930s, Asmara was rapidly developed as a base for the Italian invasion (1935–36) of Ethiopia; many Art Deco and other modern buildings survive from this period. In 1941 the city was taken by British forces. In 1950 the Eritreans, seeking independence from Ethiopia, reached an agreement with the government. But as Eritrean self-governance was withdrawn, the Eritrean Liberation Front was founded and an armed revolt ensued. Asmara's airport became key in the conflict as it was used by the Eritreans to obtain arms and supplies from outside supporters. It became a part of Eritrea with that country's independence (1993).
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