Asmara June 4th 2001
For the third time I have an appointment at 8
o' clock at the school of Solomon. Solomon is still trying to get a permit to
visit Kagnew station. Doing my best to get there in time, I take a taxi. Solomon
is 20 minutes late. Together we walk to the Den Den Military Camp, the present name of the
former Kagnew compound. It is not clear to me if it is the friend of Solomon
or the man in charge that is not available, but again their is no permit.
I walk to the Lufthansa office to confirm my
flight next Saturday. The office is closed in spite of the opening hours on the
door. The opening hours are obviously not binding. I walk to the nearby tank
grave yard and the new district "Space 2001". Just like last year I am
not welcome at the tank grave yard. A strict guard is tells me to get out with
clear gesticulations when I try to picture one of the military vehicles, that
now looks more like a flower bed. I wonder what it is that he is
protecting. Maybe just his honor as a guard. Next time I will ask Feshaye to
come with me.
After visiting the Lufthansa office for the
second time, I visit another modern district, the Sembel Residentional
Complex a series of modern blocks of flats, close to the airport of Asmara. The
area looks like captured by UN troops. Rows of UN vehicles for both transport
and communications are parked in front of a big green office building that
serves as the logistic headquarters of UN in Asmara. I ask one of the UN
military if there is any chance to visit the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) with
them. He tells me this requires a permit. Remembering the result of getting a
permit to visit Kagnew Station, I decide to forget the trip to the TSZ.
I walk to the old part of the Sembel district, to
the house of Mebrat's mother and brother Feshaye. I have no idea about the address,
but I am lucky. Ghirmay, another Eritrean man living in Holland and now staying
in Sembel recognizes me when passing with his car. He treats me to a sigh seeing
in the area.
Feshaye shows me some of the schoolbooks he used
at school in the 70's. In his geography book a "political map of Ethiopia" strikes my eyes. I compare the map with the Ethiopian claims in
the recent border conflict. 30 years ago the Ethiopians were teaching their
children the geography that is now the principles of the Eritrean territorial
claims! I wonder what changed the Ethiopian perception of the border. I ask
Feshaye if I can take his geography book as a souvenir and proof of Ethiopian
At 15:00 I have an appointment with Tesfai Zerom
in the Bankers Bar just behind the commercial bank of Eritrea. It is the third
appointment with Tesfai. I do not know why he keeps making appointments. He does
not bring the surprising events he organized last year when I visited the
Ministry of Information and several other places with him. The girls in the bar
recognize me smile both friendly and shy. I try to picture them, but they
crouched as soon as they observe the camera. I tease them by pointing the camera
at them when they show up. One of the local men likes the show and rewards me
with a coke. Tesfai is in a hurry. And so am I.
Daniel, an Eritrean painter will show me some of
his paintings at 16:00. We take the bus to the church of Saint Francesco,
where he exhibits its work.
When I am walking in front of the China Star
Restaurant, waiting for the restaurant to open, a boy comes to me. "Sir, I
have this postcard of Asmara for you, because I like what you are doing for our
country. I have written my name on the back of the card". He must have been
referring to my t-shirt with congratulations in both English and Tigrinya.
Decorated house (celebrating 10
years of liberation).
Modern housing in the "Space
2001" district of Asmara.
Modern housing - Sembel
Residentional Complex Asmara.
UN logistic headquarters - Sembel
Residentional Complex Asmara.
Wife and children of Feshaye in
their little grocery shop in Sembel.
Part of the "political map" of Ethiopia in the 1970 geography book of Feshaye.
"Lady in blue" by Daniel
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