Once the Italian flag had been raised in the gasping bay of Assab little activity followed. A wooden shed was put up and more signposts.1 Among the few Italians who were aware that their country – through Rubattino – now owned territory in Africa, some doubts surfaced. The consul in Suez considered Assab to be ‘unviable as a market for Shewa, impossible as a commercial or navigational base; it is worth precisely nothing’. ‘[Assab] is one of the most desolate regions of the Black Continent,’ wrote a popular history of Italian involvement in Africa in 1887, ‘It has no water and not a blade of grass, but torrid heat that turns wood into tinder and leather into zinc … the night is as hot as the day; at three in the morning the stones are still scorching.’2 Even the convinced expansionist, Manfredo Camperio, head of the Società geografica italiana, [Italian Geographical Society] admitted that Assab was no more than a ‘naked and arid promontory of land’, worth keeping though, for reasons of prestige, he added.3