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 decide to assign control of Eritrea to Ethiopia. There followed a long and bloody war, in which Eritreans finally 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 Aseb. Captains report that even these lights are often not in operation.

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. Admiralty numbers are from volume E of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 112.

General Sources
World of Lighthouses - Eritrea
Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net.
Lighthouses of Africa
Historic postcard images posted by Michel Forand.

Massawa Range Rear Light
Massawa Harbor Range Rear Light, Massawa, January 2011
Wikimedia Creative Commons photo by Reinhard Dietrich

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 2007 photo (1/4 the way down the page) and a small 2005 photo (a little more than halfway down the page) are available, and Google has a distant satellite view. This is a sibling of the Sha'b Shakhs Light (see below). This light station evidently 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 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, and the tower is not seen in Google's distant satellite view. Located on 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 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 palace is prominent in a Bing satellite view, but the tower is harder to spot. Located on the Massawa waterfront. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty E6104; NGA 30720.
* 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 the top of this page, a distant view is available, there is another photo 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 E6104.1; NGA 30724.
Ra's Madur (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 right, 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 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. No photo available, but Google has 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 E6114; NGA 30728.
Ra's Madur Light
Ra's Madur Light, Massawa, May 2013
Port of Massawa photo by Silvio Niccolai
(this is the port's profile photo on Google Plus)

Assarka Island (2)
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 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, another photo is available, 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 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; Google's satellite view shows two abandoned station buildings but the tower is not seen. Located on a small island at the southern entrance to the coastal channel leading toward Massawa. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. Admiralty E6122; NGA 30832.

Southern Red Sea District Lighthouses
* 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 Aseb 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 E6124; NGA 30840.
Ra's Gombo (Aseb, 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. A. Korzeniowski has a distant photo, and Google 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 Aseb in southeastern Eritrea. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS ERI-007; Admiralty E6132; NGA 30860.
Shumma Island Light
Shumma Island Light, Red Sea, April 2008
Flickr photo copyright Tom and Amy Larson; used by permission
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 Aseb (a map of this area is available). Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS ERI-006; Admiralty 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 July 28, 2014. Lighthouses: 12. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.