Click on this photo to see pictures of Keren.
The mountain city of Keren is the largest of the five secondary towns in Eritrea. It has a population of 120,000 with the majority of inhabitants being Muslim. There is a distinctly Muslim feel to the town.
Keren is a beautiful town, the name meaning ‘highland’. The sun rises over one set of peaks and sets over another set in the west. Depending on where you stay, rising at dawn will not present a problem as the muezzin is likely to be your early morning call.
Keren is one of the major agricultural centres of Eritrea, particularly for fruits and vegetables. To the west, the region is known for its banana plantations. In addition, its dairy herds supply fresh milk, butter, provolone and other cheeses.
There is a vibrant town market where ornate traditional jewellery may be purchased. There is also a wood market where craftsmen can be seen plying their trade. On Mondays there is a livestock market in a walled compound on the hillside where cattle, sheep and goats are bought and sold. It’s not unusual to see the local minibuses returning to the outlying villages, full of people with one or two bleating goats tied to the roof!
Many examples of Italian and Ethiopian colonial heritage can be seen in Keren. It is overlooked by Tigu, an impressive Egyptian 19th century fortress which still bristles with Ethiopian army cannons. There are many stylish public buildings, some more modern than others, and a beautiful Romanesque Catholic church.
At one time Keren boasted two railway stations, both now sadly defunct, although one of them now serves as the bus station for buses to Asmara, Nacfa and Barentu and also for the yellow taxi buses which transport people to and from Keren. The speed of life in Keren is best exemplified by the fact that camels and donkeys still outnumber cars!