Adulis, the Ancient Port of Eritrea

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Adulis or Aduli, located in Eritrea is a historical site and ancient port of Eritrea. This port city on the coast of Red Sea has great archaeological importance. It has garnered a lot of interest from maritime archaeologists from all over the world.

Where is Adulis?

Adulis is situated in the northern coast of Red Sea. Due to its geographical location, when the Kingdom of Aksum was in power, Adulis was ideally declared as the main port city. In those times, Adulis was the one of the most significant trade hubs in the world.

Adulis of Eritrea
Adulis of Eritrea

What is the history of Adulis?

This ancient port city has been said to be the cradle of the Adulo-Aksumite civilization (1st -7th century AD). You may come across many locals referring to the city as ‘Azuli’. There is no solid story behind how this name came about.

Some may tell you that this ancient port of Eritrea is called “Azuli” which means “white sands” referring to the white sands of Adulis. Others will tell you that the name came from the boat, “Azuli” which was the first to set sail from the port.

It was the perfect route for sailors and traders in olden days, to get to India for trade. Now called as the “Empty Kingdom” by many authors, in its good old days, this had been a port city, bustling with trade and business activities.

It is unsure what led to the port losing its significance after the 7th century, Historians doubt that it could be due to raids by the Arabs. Another plausible reason is that the old harbor may have gotten blocked with silt by that time.

How to reach Adulis?

Adulis may be easily reached from the city of Massawa, with a distance of only 65 kilometers between them. One can reach Massawa from Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, by road. Massawa is approximately 115 kilometers from Asmara.

You can get to Adulis by local buses from Massawa or even hire a private car or minibus for your convenience.

Where to stay?

Since the city of Adulis is located within reach from the city of Massawa, it is recommended to find accommodation in Massawa. Massawa offers a number of flexible stay options ranging from budget hotels and African pensions to luxurious hotels.

Attractions of Adulis

Ruins of Adulis
Ruins of Adulis

The major Eritrean tourist attraction here is undoubtedly the ruins of Adulis, which has been an important site for excavation since quite some time. The excavations of Adulis unearthed many artifacts that linked the past of Adulis to the empires of Rome, Egypt and Greece.

In the ruins, you will find a big church, a number of palaces and “a triangle of temples”, found in the year 1868 when the Napier Expedition from Britain was here for excavation purposes.

Some other ancient remains you’ll see are large pillars that suggest the existence of huge buildings such as churches and temples, back in that time.

Judging by the number of tourists that flock to visit the ruins of Adulis, you can definitely say that this ancient port of Eritrea plays a huge role in boosting Eritrean tourism.

Also visit the ancient city of Qohaito, which is situated near the city of Adulis. This city was part of the trade route from Adulis to Aksum in Ethiopia.

Both these ancient cities have been considered by the UNESCO to be declared as World Heritage Sites and are at present awaiting the confirmation.

The ancient port city of Adulis is a must go-to place for every history enthusiast while they’re at Eritrea!

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E Jey
A traveler who loves to enjoy food and shares stories, I spent several years in Africa for job and for travel. I quit my full-time job in 2016 and now serious about my travels and story telling.
Real name: Ebbin Jose
Citizen of: India
Living in: Kochi (India)

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