Lighthouses of Eritrea
Eritrea is a nation of northeastern Africa with a long
coastline on the southwestern side of the Red Sea. The country's modern
history is rather complex. Formerly part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire,
Eritrea became an Italian colony in the 1880s. British troops captured
the country in 1941 and occupied it until 1952, when the United Nations assigned control of Eritrea to Ethiopia. There followed a long
and bloody war in which Eritreans won their independence from
Ethiopia in 1993.
Aids to navigation in Eritrea are the responsibility of the Maritime
Transport Department. The Department is not making any effort to maintain
coastal lighthouses but it is attempting to provide lights for the two
ports of Massawa and Āseb. Captains report that even these lights are
often not in operation.
An extensive shoal, the Dahlak Bank, lies between the central Red Sea and most of the Eritrean coast. This forces ships approaching Massawa, the national capital and major port, to follow hazardous channels close to the coast.
There are additional lighthouses on certain Red Sea islands formerly
claimed by Eritrea but in 1999 the Permanent Court of Arbitration at
The Hague awarded these islands to Yemen.
The Arabic word for a lighthouse is mnarh or manara (منارة). Ra's is a cape, jaza'ir or jazirat is an island, and shi'b is a reef.
ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS
World List of Lights. Lights on this page were formerly included in volume E of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog
Signals, but in 2013 they were moved to volume D with new numbers. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 112.
- General Sources
- World of Lighthouses - Eritrea
- Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net.
- Online List of Lights - Eritrea
- Photos by various photographers posted by Alexander Trabas.
- Lighthouses of Africa
- Historic postcard images posted by Michel Forand.
- Navigation chart information for this area.
Ra's Madur Light, Massawa, May 2013
Port of Massawa photo by Silvio Niccolai
(this was formerly the port's profile photo on Google Plus)
- Northern Red Sea District Lighthouses
- Difnein Island (2)
- Date unknown (around 1915). Reported not in operation as of 2000; focal plane 44 m (144 ft); two white flashes
every 10 s. 38 m (125 ft) tripod cast iron tower with lantern, gallery, and
central cylinder, originally painted with black and white horizontal bands.
A photo by Konni and Matt Hahnewald is at right, a small 2005 photo (a little more than halfway down the page) is available, and Bing has a satellite view. This is a sibling of the Sha'b Shakhs Light (see below). This light station
was built to mark the beginning of the approach to Massawa from the north.
An 1892 Red Sea pilot guide describes the light as a 10 m (33 ft) wood pyramidal tower, but a 1922 guide describes the present tower. Located on an island about 110 km (70 mi) north of Massawa. Site and tower
closed; there are warnings of landmines on the beach. ARLHS ERI-001; Admiralty D7295.025 (ex-E6088); NGA 30692.
- Sheikh al Abu Island
- Date unknown. Active; focal plane 19 m (62 ft); white flash every 10 s. 17 m (56 ft) square pyramidal skeletal tower, painted with black and white horizontal bands. No photo available. Google's indistinct satellite view also shows a round masonry tower. Located off the western tip of a small island about 16 km (10 mi) offshore and 80 km (50 mi) south of Difnein Island. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. Admiralty
D7295.024 (ex-E6090); NGA 30696.
- * Massawa Harbor Range Front
- Date unknown. Active; focal plane 12 m (39 ft); continuous red light. 10
m (33 ft) square pyramidal skeletal tower with gallery, mounted on a square
1-story concrete equipment room. As a daymark the tower is enclosed in screening
that is white with a black horizontal band. Joel Alexander has a photo.
John Power has a second photo that shows the light standing in front of a ruined palace, the former winter
palace of the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. The tower is centered in a Google satellite view. Located on the Massawa waterfront.
Site open, tower closed. Admiralty D7295.019 (ex-E6104); NGA 30720.
Difnein Island Light, Red Sea, August 2007
photo copyright Konni and Matt Hahnewald; used by permission
- * Massawa Harbor Range Rear
- Date unknown. Active; focal plane 17 m (56 ft) ; continuous red light. 15
m (49 ft) square pyramidal skeletal tower with gallery, mounted on a square
1-story concrete equipment room. As a daymark the tower is enclosed in screening
that is white with a black horizontal band. Reinhard Dietrich's photo is at right, a distant view
from the sea is available, there is another view
that shows both range lights, and the tower is centered in a Google satellite
view. Located 128 m (420 ft) west southwest of the front light. Site open,
tower closed. Admiralty D7295.02 (ex-E6104.1); NGA 30724.
- Ra's Madur (Mudur) (2)
- 1914 (station established 1892). Active; focal plane 26 m (85 ft); white
light, 2 s on, 2 s off. 22 m (72 ft) slender round cast iron tower with 4
buttresses, lantern, and gallery, painted with black and white horizontal
bands. Silvio Niccolai's 2013 photo is at the top of this page, Forand has a postcard view and a second postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. This historic lighthouse appears to be in good condition. Located at the eastern end of an island sheltering the harbor of
Massawa. Site status unknown. ARLHS ERI-002; Admiralty D7295.023 (ex-E6096); NGA 30700.
- Madote Island (2)
- Date unknown. Active (and reported to be in operation at least sometimes);
focal plane 15 m (49 ft); white flash every 5 s. 13 m (43 ft) square pyramidal
steel skeletal tower; no lantern. Tower painted with black and white horizontal
bands. A very distant view (third from last photo on the page) is available but Google has only an indistinct satellite view of the island. Located on a small island, not much more than a sandbar,
about 8 km (5 mi) east southeast of Massawa. Accessible only by boat. Site
open. ARLHS ERI-008; Admiralty D7295.018 (ex-E6114); NGA 30728.
Massawa Harbor Range Rear Light, Massawa, January 2011
Wikimedia public domain photo by Reinhard Dietrich
- Assarka Island
- Date unknown. Active (but reported not operating in 2002); focal plane 10
m (33 ft); white flash every 2 s. 7.5 m (25 ft) square pyramidal skeletal
tower; no lantern. Nearby are the ruins of a former lighthouse and the foundations
of a keeper's house. No photo available but Google has an indistinct satellite
view. Located on a small island about 4 km (2.5 mi) west of Shumma Island.
Accessible only by boat. Site open. ARLHS ERI-009; Admiralty D7295.017 (ex-E6116); NGA 30732.
- Shumma Island (2)
- Date unknown (station established 1889). Reported not in operation in 2001; focal plane 33 m (108 ft); three white flashes every
20 s. 22 m (72 ft) round cast iron (?) tower, painted white. Tom and Amy Larson's photo is at right and Google has a satellite
view. A sibling of the Ra's Madur Light (see above). According to an 1892 Red Sea pilot guide, the original light had a focal plane of 18 m (59 ft). Shumma, known as a scuba diving site, is a 4 km (2.5 mi) long island
in the passage leading to Massawa, between the Dahlak Archipelago and the
mainland. Located at the southern end of the island. Accessible only by boat.
Site open, tower closed. ARLHS ERI-004; Admiralty D7295.016 (ex-E6120); NGA 30736.
- Umm es Sahrig Island
- Date unknown. Active; focal plane 27 m (89 ft); white flash every 8 s. 17 m (56 ft) square skeletal tower, painted with black and white horizontal bands. No photo available but Bing has an indistinct satellite view. Located on a small island at the southern entrance to the coastal channel leading toward Massawa. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. Admiralty
D7295.015 (ex-E6122); NGA 30832.
Southern Red Sea District Lighthouses
- Note: After years of neglect the south Eritean port of Āseb (Assab) has become important in regional politics. In 2015 the United Arab Emirates leased the deep water port and airfield for development, in large part to support its intervention in the civil war across the Red Sea in Yemen. And in 2018 Eritrea and Ethiopia reached an agreement opening the port to shipments to and from Ethiopia.
- * Sha'b Shakhs
- Date unknown (around 1915). Still listed by NGA but clearly inactive. 37 m (121
ft) tripod cast iron tower with lantern, gallery, and central cylinder,
originally painted white with a black horizontal band. No photo available
but Google has a satellite
view. The lighthouse is abandoned and rusting and in the Google
image we see that only foundation ruins remain of the keeper's house.
Lighthouses of this design are quite rare. This one was in place by 1916, according to a Red Sea pilot guide. Located on the coast in a
deserted area about halfway between Āseb and Massawa; accessible by
boat or from the coastal road (but reaching this site by 4WD requires
a well-planned expedition). Site open, tower closed. ARLHS ERI-005;
Admiralty D7295.014 (ex-E6124); NGA 30840.
Shumma Island Light, Red Sea, April 2008
Flickr photo copyright Tom and Amy Larson; used by permission
- Ra's Gombo (Āseb, Assab) (2)
- Date unknown (station established 1883). Active; focal plane 23 m
(75 ft); two white flashes every 10 s. 13 m (43 ft) square skeletal
tower, covered on at least three sides by a daymark painted with black
and white horizontal bands. No photo available but Bing has a satellite
view. Forand has a historic postcard
view of the earlier
lighthouse, a masonry tower. Located on a headland on the north
side of Āseb in southeastern Eritrea. Site status unknown. ARLHS
ERI-007; Admiralty D7295.013 (ex-E6132); NGA 30860.
- Ra's Fatuma (Ra's Fatma)
- Date unknown. Active; focal plane 29 m (95 ft); three white flashes
every 26 s. 26.5 m (87 ft) masonry tower, painted with black and white
horizontal bands. Guy wires have been added to help support the tower.
No photo available but Google has a good satellite view. The lighthouse is quite close to the water, so it is probably
endangered by beach erosion. Located at the northwestern point of Fatuma
Island about 7 km (4.5 mi) east northeast of Āseb. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown.
ARLHS ERI-006; Admiralty D7295 (ex-E6128); NGA 30856.
Information available on lost lighthouses:
Notable faux lighthouses:
Adjoining pages: North: Sudan | South: Djibouti
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Posted June 27, 2005. Checked and revised August 7, 2019. Lighthouses:
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