The 11th of March 1870 an Italian shipper, Signor Rubattino, had bought the bay of Assab, with the neighboring island of Darmakieh, from Beheran, sultan of Raheita, for 1880, the funds being furnished by the government.
The Egyptian government being unwilling to recognize the sovereignty of Beheran over Assab or his right to sell territory to a foreign power, sTisconti-Venosta thought it opportune not then to occupy Assab.
The 19th of April 188o received a formal undertaking from Cairoli that Assab would never be fortified nor be made a military establishment.
Meanwhile (January 1880) stores and materials were landed, and Assab was permanently occupied.
On the 20th of September 1881 Beheran formally accepted Italian protection, and in the following February an Anglo-Italian convention established the Italian title to Assab on condition that Italy should formally recognise the suzerainty of the Porte and of the khedive over the Red Sea coast, and should prevent the transport of arms and munitions of war through the territory of Assab.
A month later (10th March I 882) Rubattino made over his establishment to the Italian government, and on the 12th of June the Chamber adopted a bill constituting Assab an Italian crown colony.
Italian action was hastened by news that, in December 1884, an exploring party under Signor Bianchi, royal commissioner for Assab, had been massacred in the Aussa (Danakil) country, an event which aroused in Italy a desire to punish the assassins and to obtain satisfaction for the still unpunished massacre of Signor Giulietti and his companions.
The chief indentations are Annesley Bay, immediately south of Massawa, and Assab Bay in the south.
- The principal places on the coast are Massawa, pop. about 10,000, the chief seaport of the colony, Assab, chief town of the Danakil region, to which converges the trade from Abyssinia across the Aussa country, and Zula, identified with the ancient Adulis.
There are also two caravan routes from Assab Bay, across the Danakil country to southern Abyssinia.
The Bogos country; Massawa, extending over all the tribes between the high plateau and the sea from the Hababs to the Danakil; Assab, which extends from Edd to Raheita; Okule-Kusai, the plateau country S.E.
The customs and political surveillance along the coast is entrusted, afloat, to the Massawa naval station, and, ashore, to a coastguard company 400 strong stationed at Meder, with detachments at Assab, Massawa, Raheita, Edd and Taclai.
The purchase of Assab and the neighbouring region for L1880, from the sultan Berehan of Raheita for use as a coaling station by the Italian Rubattino Steamship Company, in March 1870, formed the nucleus of Italy's colonial possessions.
(The Indian government viewed the establishment of the Italians on the new highway to the East with a good deal of ill-humour.) Eventually, the British opposition being overcome and that of Egypt and Turkey disregarded, Assab, by a decree of the 5th of July 1882, was declared an Italian colony.
Between 1883 and 1888 various treaties were concluded with the sultan of Aussa ceding the Danakil coast to Italy and recognizing an Italian protectorate over the whole of his country - through which passes the trade route from Assab Bay to Shoa.
Amongst the more important plateaus are the Assab or Kibyen country, having a general level of upwards of 4000 ft., and the Sura country, also reaching to elevations of from 3000 to 5000 ft.
Assab, a port near the southern entrance of the Red Sea, had been bought from the local sultan in March 1870 by an Italian company, which, after acquiring more land in 1879 and 1880, was bought out by the Italian government in 1882.
Several missions followed upon this one, with more or less successful results; but both John and Menelek became uneasy when Beilul, a port to the north of Assab Bay, was occupied by the Italians in January 1885, and Massawa taken over by them from Egypt in the following month.