Asmara June 1st 2001
At the Italian club - Casa Degli Italiana - I
visit the exhibition of the Italian painter Luigi Cavandoli:
"... and lastly, the real voyages like the
one that a little more than a year ago I made by coming to live here in Asmara,
this city with her buildings that look as if they're coming out of De Chirico's
paintings with her sky blessed by the light, with the stars and the moon so
close that they look as if you can touch them with your hand, with the violet of
her jacarda trees and the red color of her soil. These buildings, this sky and
this soil, now part of my soul and present in many of my paintings, want to assign
of my love for Eritrea and of friendship for her people who have just
celebrated ten years of proud independence."
I take the bus to Haz Haz. The district has some
very typical traditional houses. Their shape is that of the tukuls I have seen
in Keren. Last year I saw the gray skeletons of new housing that was being
built. The houses are almost finished, in spite of the recent war. I walk through
the narrow streets of Haz Haz. A lot of children are following me. They want me
to picture them. "Money, money, is just like honey". They know they
are not allowed to beg. But it is allowed to sing about money.
A young woman is coming to me, asking what I am
doing. She invites me to drink tea with her. My wife warned me not to go inside
last year. But what do I have to fear? I decide to accept her invitation. She
tells me that her family was deported from Ethiopia to Eritrea two years ago. They had a
beautiful house in Addis. Now they have to share one big room with two sisters,
two brothers and the two parents. We drink tea. Selam added some herbs,
"djana adam". I remember the warning of my wife, last year, but
nothing happens. She invites me to drink coffee Eritrean style with them next Sunday. I will think about it.
When I leave Haz Haz, a UN car stops. "Are
you going to the center of Asmara?" The words sounded like "You are in
the wrong neighborhood". Since I was planning to go back to the center
anyway, I accepted the offer.
In Harnet Avenue I meet the brother of
Hirity. Hirity came from Keren to Asmara for the last two days of her holidays.
We drink some tea in the Red Sea Pension, where she and her brother have a room.
An old woman appears in the doorway. She is not able to speak, but from the way
she acts, I understand she is very thirsty. I give here 10 Nakfa. I have been
told that one Nakfa is enough, but having so much luck with free accommodation,
both in Keren and Asmara, I think I should spend some extra Nakfa's on those who
clearly need it.
I have "dinner" in The Mask Place, a
nice, clean and modern restaurant, serving Mc Donald food in an African
entourage. It is one of the more expensive restaurants in Asmara, a popular
restaurant for the UN and the youth.
Mede Ertra bus station Asmara.
Mede Ertra bus station Asmara Eritrea
- women waiting for the bus.
Woman selling grains at Mede Ertra bus station.
Traditional houses (Agdos) in the Haz Haz
district of Asmara.
Miriam and Selam in their small house in Haz Haz.
New housing complexes in Haz Haz -
Bar of restaurant The Mask Place Asmara.