While Asmara and Massawa are the two most known destinations in Eritrea, Keren also deserves a spot on your Eritrea itinerary. Keren is described as the “heart of Eritrea.” It has a completely different feel to both Asmara and Massawa, making a visit to Keren necessary for a more-wholistic view of Eritrea. So without further ado, here are the top things to see and do in Keren.
This is the largest mosque in Eritrea. You can see it from so many viewpoints around the city, so don’t worry about accidentally missing this one. Like most mosques, only Muslims can enter.
Come on Monday if you want to see the camel market, but the market is still up and running the other days of the week. Don’t worry if you can’t make it on a Monday. Camels are walking the streets everywhere in Keren.
Catholic Cathedral of Keren
This is one of the tallest and most colorful buildings in the city. I loved the unique combination of the orange and the teal.
Murals of Keren
Take some time to look at the murals around the city. The one pictured below is actually about five times the length of the portion shown.
Italian Army Cemetery
Keren was the site of a key battle between Italian and British forces in WWII in 1941. The Italian forces were predominantly Eritrean with some Italians as well, and they ultimately lost to the British here in Keren. Most of the tombstones, especially on the Eritrean half of the cemetery, are nameless graves. The Italian general commanding this war, Orlando Lorenzini, died in the battle and is actually buried here. He has a special tomb in the back middle.
A tukul is a round hut with a cone shaped straw roof. This is the traditional dwelling in Keren, and used to be the only type of housing in this area. But as more modern buildings went up, you see these mostly just on the drive into the city.
British Army Cemetery
The British troops who fought in the battle described above were Sudanese and Indian. Visiting the cemetery puts into perspective how many non-Europeans had to die by fighting other non-Europeans in what should have been a mostly-European war.
What Do You Think of Keren?
Have you been to Keren? Drop any tips and recommendations below in the comments section for future visitors.
Also make sure to check out my overall Eritrea travel guide for information on things like visas, permits to move around Eritrea, what to eat, safety, and more.