Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bar Zilli, Asmara

Big Sandals, AsmaraIn the middle of a roundabout on Martyrs Avenue, Asmara is a large sculpure of a pair of sandals dedicated to the Eritrean Freedom Fighters who wore these types of shoes during their long struggle against the Ethiopian occupation.

Bar Zilli, nearby, looks like a ship sailing right into the middle of the intersection, complete with a row five of porthole windows down each side. While the front could be an oversized Art Deco radio, complete with heart-shaped antenna.

Bar Zilli’s radio-style façade curves around the corner and is dominated by a 6x6 grid of windows although two rows have been blanked out. Above the grid, two deep horizontal lines have been cut into the concrete filling the space to the roofline. The only other features on the front of the building are two sets of horizontal windows arranged in bands of three similar to the decoration on the Capitol Cinema also in Asmara.

Bar Zilli, AsmaraAs mentioned previously, each side of the building has a row of five porthole windows. Each porthole has a more traditional window above it and is separated from its neighbour by a rounded marble column.

The heart on top is an advertisement. Sorry I can’t tell you what it is for because it is written in the local Tigrinya language.

Asmara: Africa's Secret Modernist City~ Edward Denison, Guang Yu Ren & Naigzy Gebremedhim


  1. Thanks, David, for these pictures. Bar Zilli was one of my favourite places in the 1990s for people watching while sipping an exrpesso or a Melotti (Asmara) beer. The heart outline on the building top is not part of the building's design. It has nothing to do with art deco. It was installed recently for the Independence day celebrations.

  2. Thanks for that Sami.

    just about everyone who sees this photo asks what the heart on top is.

    Now I can tell them.

    I thought it had been added after the building was built but I didn't realise it had been so recent.

  3. The word in the heart means: HEART, for all those who cannot read pictorams, and Zilli itself means: Beating. what the heart is supposed to do. In earlier days it used to rotate and was illuminated.

  4. Thank you Tex for adding to the story of the Heart and the meaning of the word Zilli. Interesting stuff.