Cinema Impero: A Glimpse into Asmara’s Art Deco Legacy

Cinema Impero: A Glimpse into Asmara’s Art Deco Legacy

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Cinema Impero, an iconic Art Deco movie theater located in Asmara, Eritrea, stands as a captivating reminder of the city’s colonial past and architectural heritage. Built during the Italian colonial era, this historical cinema remains an enduring symbol of entertainment, culture, and the shared history between Italy and Eritrea.

General Overview: 

Constructed in 1937, Cinema Impero was designed by Italian architect Mario Messina, who incorporated the elegant and distinctive features of the Art Deco style into its facade and interior. The cinema was once a thriving hub for film enthusiasts and social gatherings, contributing to Asmara’s reputation as “Little Rome” for its Italian-influenced architecture and vibrant cultural scene.

Key Features:

  1. Art Deco Architecture: Cinema Impero’s exterior showcases the characteristic geometric patterns, decorative motifs, and sweeping curves that define the Art Deco style, making it a significant architectural landmark in Asmara.
  2. Historical Significance: The cinema’s construction was part of Italy’s efforts to develop Asmara as a modern and cosmopolitan city during its colonial rule, contributing to the urban fabric that still defines the city today.
  3. Entertainment Legacy: Cinema Impero was a popular venue for film screenings, concerts, and social gatherings, serving as a center of cultural life during the colonial period.
  4. Preservation Efforts: Despite the passage of time and changes in ownership, Cinema Impero has been carefully preserved, maintaining its architectural integrity and historical allure.

Why It’s Worth Visiting: 

Cinema Impero offers visitors a chance to step back in time and admire the grandeur of Art Deco architecture while reflecting on the shared history of Eritrea and Italy. It stands as a living testimony to the city’s past, evoking nostalgia and appreciation for its cultural legacy.

Activities and Experiences: 

While the cinema is no longer in operation as a movie theater, visitors can still appreciate its magnificent exterior and historical significance. Guided tours may be available to provide insights into the cinema’s history and architectural features.


Asmara offers a range of accommodations, and travelers can find hotels and guesthouses within proximity to Cinema Impero, ensuring convenient access to other attractions in the city.


Visitors can explore nearby restaurants and cafes to enjoy a meal after admiring the cinema’s architecture, savoring Eritrean cuisine and other culinary delights.

Getting There: 

Cinema Impero is centrally located in Asmara, making it easily accessible on foot or by local transportation. Travelers can explore other landmarks and cultural sites nearby.

Best Time to Visit: 

The exterior of Cinema Impero can be appreciated at any time of the year. Asmara’s pleasant climate makes it enjoyable to explore the city’s architecture and cultural heritage year-round.

Travel Tips:

  • Be mindful of the cinema’s current status and whether guided tours are available before planning a visit.
  • Photography is usually allowed from the exterior, but it’s advisable to inquire about any restrictions when taking photos.


Cinema Impero stands as a timeless masterpiece of Art Deco architecture, preserving the memory of Asmara’s colonial past and its vibrant cultural scene. As visitors stand before this elegant structure, they are transported to an era of entertainment, artistic expression, and urban development. Cinema Impero offers a glimpse into the shared history between Eritrea and Italy, underscoring the enduring legacy of architectural treasures that continue to define Asmara’s unique charm and cosmopolitan character.



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