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Celebrating 10 years liberation

Asmara June 3rd 2001


Yesterday I told Solomon of the invitation I received to drink Eritrean coffee in Haz Haz with Selam and Miriam. Since Solomon is the brother of Mebrat, he should know best how to respond to the invitation. "Hans", he said to me, "Accept the invitation. Go to the pastry and buy some cake, as a gift to Selam's family. And when you leave, you give her 50 Nakfa, to show your appreciation."

So I go to the pastry at 11 o'clock and buy some cake. I take the bus to Haz Haz. With a little luck I walk straight to the house (I remembered the number, the approximate direction and the shape of the gate of the house. Many streets in Asmara do not have a name, some are numbered). Selam and Miriam look surprised to see me. I think they did not expect I would have the courage to come.

Selam and Miriam speak very good English. They tell me about their deportation from Ethiopia two years ago. I ask her if she's more Ethiopian or Eritrean. Friendly but very explicit she asks me "what am I indebted to Ethiopia?". The look on her face tells the rest. The parents of the girls are to Canada. They have a lot of family over there. "That's our luck. Otherwise we would be very poor. We had to leave everything when we came to Eritrea."

Selam would like to go to Canada, "or Holland". Her last words gives me the shudders. Is this the purpose of the invitation? She has to finish her military service first. We talk about her chances in Canada or Europe. When I leave I give her the 50 Nakfa's as Solomon suggested and tell her in Holland I would have bought her flowers. "Thank you honey", she said. "You are my brother now. Will you visit us again next Friday? I will make you pasta." I tell her I will think about it. But actually I already knew the answer. Wrong thinking of mine or wrong woman?

The rest of the day I spend doing some shopping on the markets. Fruits and vegetables are very expensive after the recent war with Ethiopia. I have understand the Ethiopians scheduled their war in such a way to make it impossible for the farmers to sow. Mining of the land further diminished the available arable land.

I remember I noticed a bus numbered 20. Last year I just took all the different buses, asking the passengers about the areas and the buildings we passed. For only one Nakfa I buy a ticked to enjoy the landscapes just outside Asmara, with its lakes and its hills. I ask the Eritrean passengers the names of the villages we pass. The ask my pencil and my notebook. "Art Faensh" they write.


Town Hall of Asmara  - Harnet Avenue Asmara Eritrea
Decorated on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of liberation.

Fish market - Asmara Eritrea.

Selam making Eritrean coffee in the small house in Haz Haz. 

Selam and Miriam making Eritrean coffee in their small house in Haz Haz.

Friendly waitress - Cathedral Snackbar Asmara Eritrea.

Friendly waitress - Cathedral Snackbar Asmara Eritrea.

Cathedral Snackbar - Asmara Eritrea.

Cathedral Snackbar - Asmara Eritrea.


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