Tour around Africa: Stage 38 - Massawa (HHMS) to Asmara (HHAS)
MS Flight Simulator VFR Flight Plan
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In this VFR - GPS Flight Plan we take off from the airport of Massawa (HHMS) [Eritrea], make a tour by the Dahlak archipelago, overfly Emba Soira, the highest mountain in Eritrea, then Senafe and Debre Bizen, finally landing in the airport of Asmara (HHAS) [Eritrea]

Find below a short extract and screenshots of the main points of the route. In this journey around Africa I have used the Cessna 172S (Skyhawk)

Take off from the airport of Massawa.

Massawa International Airport (IATA: MSW, ICAO: HHMS) is an airport in Massawa, a major city in the Northern Red Sea region of Eritrea. It is considered to be the successor of the Otumlo Airport, also in Massawa, which was destroyed in 1941.

The Massawa International Airport is one of Eritrea's major airports.

In the colonial period in Italian Eritrea, a 1,970 km airway line was established between Massawa-Djibouti-Berbera-Galadi-Mogadishu. As of 2014, the airport accommodated only domestic flights since the companies that formed it do not have international licenses.

The Eritrea Investment Centre has proposed a new $60 million development project at the airport. Additionally, it has offered incentives on taxation, provision of supplies that the market does not already provide, provision of heavy machinery, and easy access to government loans.  (*1) 

Overflying Massawa and turning towards the Dahlak archipelago.

Massawa (/məsˈɑːwə/ muh-SAH-wuh is a port city in the Northern Red Sea region of Eritrea, located on the Red Sea at the northern end of the Gulf of Zula beside the Dahlak Archipelago. It has represented a historically important port for many centuries. It was the capital of the Italian Colony of Eritrea until the seat of the colonial government was moved to Asmara in 1897.

Massawa has an average temperature of 30°C / 86°F, which is one of the highest found in the world, and is "one of the hottest marine coastal areas in the world.

Massawa was originally a small seaside village, lying in lands coextensive with the Kingdom of Axum—also known as Kingdom of Zula in antiquity—and overshadowed by the nearby port of Adulis about 50 kilometres (31 mi) to the south. Massawa has been ruled or occupied by a succession of polities during its history, including the Aksumite Empire, Abyssinia and Italian Eritrea. Following the fall of Axum in the 8th century, the area around Massawa and the town itself fell under the occupation of the Umayyad Caliphate from 702 to 750 CE. The Beja people would also come to rule within Massawa during the Bajag Kingdom of Eritrea from the year 740 to the 14th century. Massawa was situated between the sultanates of Qata, Baqulin, and Dahlak. Midri-Bahri, an Eritrean kingdom (14th–19th centuries), gained leverage at various times and ruled over Massawa. The port city would also come under control of the Balaw people during the Balaw Kingdom of Eritrea (12th–15th centuries). At this time, the Sheikh Hanafi Mosque, one of the country's oldest mosques, was built on Massawa Island. The city reportedly has the oldest mosque in Africa, that is the Mosque of the Companions. It was reportedly built by companions of Muhammad who escaped persecution by Meccans. (*1)

Harbour of Massawa
Reinhard Dietrich - CC0
The old Italian city administration building
on Taulud Island at Massawa

David Stanley - CC BY 2.0
Historic center of Massawa
Reinhard Dietrich - CC0

Getting to the Dahlak archipelago

The Dahlak Archipelago is an island group located in the Red Sea near Massawa, Eritrea. It consists of two large and 124 small islands. The pearl fisheries of the archipelago have been famous since Roman times and still produce a substantial number of pearls. (*1)

The island of Nora, the second largest island of the archipelago.

Nora (also transliterated: Norah) is the second largest island in the Dahlak Archipelago, Eritrea, and one of the three inhabited islands of the archipelago. It has an area of 105.15 km2. It reaches a maximum height of 37 meters in the northeast.

In 2009 the island had a population of 373 in 66 households. (*1)

A nice lagoon in the Dahlak Kebir island.

Dahlak Kebir (Arabic: دهلك كبير‎, Italian: Grande Dahlac) is the largest island of the Dahlak Archipelago. Situated in the Red Sea off of the coast of Eritrea, it was formerly called Dahlak Deset.

Dahlak Kebir has a population of around 2,500 people speaking the Dahalik language. Its major industries include fishing, sea cucumber collection and tourism.

The village of Dahlak Kebir lies on the west of the island and is known for its ancient cisterns and necropolis, dating from at least AD 912. It is also known for its fossils. Other features of the island include pre-Islamic ruins at Adel, wildlife and mangrove swamps. Ferries link the island with Massawa and several smaller islands. (*1)

Back to the mainland.


Approaching the Eritrean Highlands.


Overflying Emba Soira, the highest mountain in Eritrera.

Emba Soira (also transliterated Sowera) is the highest mountain in Eritrea. Rising 3,018 metres (9,902 ft) above sea level, it is part of the Eritrean Highlands, one side of the Great Rift Valley which cuts through Eritrea and joins the Red Sea. The mountain is situated in the southeastern part of the Debub (Southern) administrative region in central Eritrea.

Emba Soira is reached by a paved road from the city of Senafe, located 135 kilometres south of the national capital Asmara. From there, a very difficult and perilous dirt track heading east for almost 20 kilometres leads to the mountain. The last part must be trekked and takes at least a few hours of travel. (*1)

Flying over Senafe

Senafe Adi harayf صنعفى or Tigrinya: ሰንዓፈTigrinya pronunciation: [sɐnʕafɐ]) is a market town in southern Eritrea, on the edge of the Eritrean highlands. The surrounding area is inhabited by the Saho people and the Tigrinya people.

Senafe is known for the ruins of Metera (also known as Balaw Kalaw) to the south, and for Kaskase to the north. The soil is derived from volcanic ignimbrite, and Senafe sits on the southeastern edge of a twenty kilometer wide caldera.

The original name for Saanafè was "Hakir", a Saho word. Local tradition states that the name was changed by a man named Abdullah from Sana'a in Yemen; he settled in the Awdie district of Hakir, and upon marrying a local woman he was quoted as saying "Sana-fen" which means in Arabic "where is Sana'a" he was relating to his hometown; thus the town was named Sanafe; his descendants form a tribe and are also known as Saanafè.

An early record of Sanafe is on the Egyptus Novello map, published in 1454. This map shows Sanafe at the Southern part of Eritrea.

Due to war (1998-2000) between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Senafe's economy was damaged badly. The highest mountain located in the Senafe municipality is Soira. Other high mountains that surrounded Senafe include: Metera, Arab-tarika and Emba Derho. (*1)

Sailko - CC BY 3.0

Leaving Debre Bizen area behind

Debre Bizen is an Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church monastery. Located at the top of Debre Bizen the mountain (2460 meters) near the town of Nefasit in Eritrea. Its library contains many important Ge'ez manuscripts.

Debre Bizen was founded in the 1350s by Filipos, who was a student of Absadi. By 1400, the Monastery followed the rule of the House of Ewostatewos (Ancient Greek: Εὐστάθιος Eustáthios), and a gadl (hagiography) of Ewostatewos was later composed there. According to Tom Killion, it remained independent of the Ethiopian Church, while Richard Pankhurst states that it continued to be dependent on the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church centered in Axum. In either case, a charter survives of the Emperor Zara Yaqob in which he granted lands to Debre Bizen.

The monastery was one of several habitations damaged by the Ottoman Empire in their campaigns to establish their province of Habesh Eyalet in the 16th century.

When Abuna Yohannes XIV, who came from Cairo to Ethiopia to serve as head of the Ethiopian Church, was held for ransom at Arkiko by the local naib, the abbot of Debre Bizen helped him to escape. (*1)

Some of the buildings of the monastery complex
Grullab - CC BY-SA 4.0

Overflying the city of Asmara

Asmara (/æsˈmɑːrə/ əs-MAHR-ə), or Asmera (Tigrinya: ኣስመራ), is the capital and most populous city of Eritrea, in the country's Central Region. It sits at an elevation of 2,325 metres (7,628 ft), making it the sixth highest capital in the world by altitude. The city is located at the tip of an escarpment that is both the northwestern edge of the Eritrean Highlands and the Great Rift Valley in neighbouring Ethiopia. In 2017, the city was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its well-preserved modernist architecture. The site of Asmera was first settled in 800 BC with a population ranging from 100 to 1000. The city was then founded in the 12th century AD after four separate villages unified to live together peacefully after long periods of conflict. Under Italian rule the city of Asmara was made capital of Eritrea in the last years of the 19th century.

Asmara has wide streets, restaurants, piazzas (town squares), bars and cafes while many of the boulevards are lined with palms trees. The Italian inspired food and culture is very present and was introduced during Italian Eritrea. Countless restaurants and cafes, serve high quality espresso, cappuccinos and lattes, as well as gelato parlours and restaurants with Italian Eritrean cuisine. Common dishes served from the Italian Eritrean cuisine are 'Pasta al Sugo e Berbere', which means "pasta with tomato sauce and berbere" (spice), "lasagna" and "cotoletta alla milanese" (milano cutlet).

Asmara was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2017, becoming the first modernist city anywhere to be listed in its entirety. The inscription taking place during the 41st World Heritage Committee Session.

The city has thousands of Art Deco, futurist, modernist, and rationalist buildings, constructed during the period of Italian Eritrea. The city, nicknamed "La piccola Roma" ("Little Rome"), is located over 2,000 meters above sea level, and was an ideal spot for construction due to the relatively cool climate; architects used a combination of both Italian and local materials.

Some notable buildings include the Fiat Tagliero Building, Bar Zilli, opera houses, hotels, and cinemas, such as the Cinema Impero. (*1)

Bar Zilli, architecturally modeled in accordance with
the Art Deco movement in the 1930s

Sailko - CC BY 3.0
Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Asmara
David Stanley - CC BY 2.0
Steam train outside Asmara on the Eritrean Railway
Peter Crook - CC0

Approach to the airport of Asmara.  We tried an ILS approach, but it didn't work this time in FS2020. The ILS glide slope that FS2020 was following did not march the airport altitude and location.

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(*1) Credits: The descriptive texts are mainly an excerpt of those provided by Wikipedia. Visit Wikipedia to read the full descriptions.

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