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In 1857, an agreement was entered into by Dejazmach Agew Niguse of Tigray, in revolt against EmperorTewodros II of Ethiopia, to cede Zula to the French. Agew Niguse was defeated by Emperor Tewodros, and the commander of a French cruiser sent to Annesley Bay in 1859 found the country in a state of anarchy. No further steps were taken by France to assert its sovereignty, and Zula with the neighbouring coast passed, nominally, to Egypt in 1866. Zula was the place where the British expedition of 1867 – 1868 against Tewodros disembarked, Annesley Bay affording safe and ample anchorage for the largest ocean-going vessels. A road was built by the British from Zula to Senafe in the Ethiopian Highlands.
The authority of Egypt having lapsed over Zula, an Italianprotectorate was proclaimed in 1888, and in 1890 the town was incorporated into the colony of Eritrea.