Darbush Tomb

World Monuments Watch
Massawa, Eritrea

2008 World Monuments Watch

Located in old Massawa, the Derbush Tomb is one of the city's oldest Islamic monuments. The tomb is a rare example of Islamic funerary architecture that survived the destruction that has marked the history of Massawa, a city which was almost completely leveled during Eritrea's war of independence in 1990. The tomb, which is built of coral and attributed to a Sufi, is located near a series of cut stone dwellings dating from the Italian colonial period. The building has been severely damaged by exposure to the elements, erosion, and lack of maintenance. The body of the main building shows significant cracking in the cupola and walls. Some of the carved coral decoration has been pillaged. A portion of the tomb's central wall has collapsed. Massawa has undertaken an ambitious rebuilding campaign in recent years, involving demolition of abandoned and unstable buildings. These coral buildings, which are characteristic of the East African Coast, are rapidly disappearing. It is hoped that Watch listing and the conservation of a small but significant site in central Massawa will set an example of sustainable conservation practices, and will generate awareness among the local population and authorities about the importance of this disappearing heritage.

Last updated:
July 2008

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