Along its Red Sea coast Eritrea possesses not less than 350 Islands. Dahlak Kebir, the largest of all is located approximately 50kms off the coast of Massawa, the busiest port of Eritrea. Topographically, relatively low relief limestone encircled by clean waters, abundant coral reefs and bountiful of fish species are the dominant features of the Islands. Nevertheless, their rich resources are so far not harnessed. They are inhabited by small fishing communities. One could only witness a small hotel and few houses scattered here and there, except for the presence of a military base on both Dahlak Kebir and in the near by Nakura Islands. The archaeological site of the Necropolis, a large early Islamic cemetery, and nearby ancient cisterns and pre Islamic cemetery, lies on the southwestern side of the Island. The story of Dahlak and its ruins are clear testimony that the archipelago has a mine of very rich history that needs to be explored. In the 7th century, for instance, it was through these Islands that the Islamism has infiltrated and eventually penetrated deep into various parts of Eritrea and Ethiopia. In between the beginning of the 8th and mid-9th century, the archipelago was conquered and occupied by various external powers such as the Byzantine Empire. In the 13th century, during the period of internal uprising in the Arab world, Dahlak established its own autonomous Sultanate. In latter years, Portuguese and Ottoman Kingdoms used to control the Islands and to assert their supremacy in the Red Sea. In 16th century, however, Dahlak was exclusively occupied by the Ottomans and was used as a launching ground to conquer and control the costal part and highland of Eritrea. Finally, in the 1870s Mohammed Ali of Egypt became master of the Islands. Dahlak was also known to have been the centre of trade for slaves on the Horn from the beginning of its occupation by Ottomans until its occupation of the Islands and the Red Sea coast by the Egyptians. (Eritrean travel and trade manual 2000) The prospect of the Dahlak Archipelago for the development of a successful tourist industry in Eritrea could undoubtedly be feasible. The low-lying coral chains where these volcanic Islands are located is amazingly tantalizing, fascinating and picturesque beyond description. Environmentally unpolluted, they are hygienic health-wise and could therefore be the primary attractions for tourists. Clean water and warm climate being their outstanding features, tourists could easily be lured to enjoy themselves without much ado about worrying their welfare, given their graceful natural environment is protected from deteriorations by contamination. White sandy beaches, protective bays and lagoons, provide excellent conditions for diving, snorkeling, sailing wind surfing and other sport activities. (Travel Trade Manual of Eritrea, 2000)
Dissertation (MPhil (Tourism Management))--University of Pretoria, 2008.