Massawa (məsäˈwə) [key], city (1984 pop. 15,441), Eritrea, a port on the Red Sea. Before Eritrean independence (1993) it was the main port for N Ethiopia and is linked by rail with Asmara. Agreements with Eritrea gave Ethiopia continued access to its port facilities, but after the border war (1998–2000) between the two countries Ethiopian use of the port ended, severely affecting the local economy. Major industries include meat processing and the production of cement and salt. Fishing is also important to the economy. Long a commercial port, Massawa was part of the kingdom of Aksum (c.1st–8th cent. A.D.). In 1577 it was captured by the Ottoman Turks, who in 1868 transferred it to Egyptian control. In 1885, Massawa was taken by Italy, and from 1889 to 1900 it was the capital of the Italian colony of Eritrea. Until Etritrean independence it was the main base of the Ethiopian navy, which had a naval training school there. The secessionist Eritrean movement was involved in fighting against the Ethiopian government in the city. Massawa's port was especially important for receiving arms shipments and the city was heavily damaged during the 30-year war of independence. Its name is also spelled Massaua and Mitsiwa.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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