Asmara June 8th 2001
With only three more days to go in Eritrea, I
will try to visit as much as possible places in Asmara, to picture the things I
have forgotten until now, to ask the questions that are not answered and to say
goodbye to many people I met last two weeks and bring copies of some pictures as
First I have my shoes polished. They carry the
dust of the last two weeks and the last two days on the Dahlak Islands in particular. I
am surprised by the price (one Nakfa). Two days ago they charged me eight Nakfa
($0,80). It is not the seven Nakfa's itself that is bothering me, but the mere
fact that I feel cheated, one of the things
that seldom happen in Eritrea.
When I am looking for the two girls on the market
to bring them their pictures, I am suddenly escorted by two drunkards, "sagram",
that even start to fight each other. "He is my friend". "No, he
is mine." The situation is quite embarrassing, when they resort to
fisticuffs. The fight attracts the attention of half of the people on the
market, who form a circle around this show of the two men and the tourist. I
decide to stay in their neighborhood, so they can help me to get rid of the two
men. "Give them ten Nakfa to get themselves a drink", is their advise.
It works. One of them tells me 10 Nakfa is not enough. He wants to eat something
as well. I take another 10 Nakfa note and show it to him. I give it to a very
old woman sitting on the market. "I have more respect for this old woman
than for your dipsomania". He is gone.
A group of older woman invite me to have Eritrean
coffee with them. The woman offer me a dish with various beans as well. Its part
of ceremony of Bahti, the first day of the lunar month. They are cold and have
no taste. But I do my best to eat them. Why should I refuse their food if it is
the only thing they have to offer to show their hospitality?
Very thirsty I enter the first bar in the neighborhood of the bar. I do not have to pay for my soft drink. Even before I
have the chance to pay it, one of the locals has paid it. I thank him as much as
I possibly can for so much hospitality. I
share his table and explain my business in Eritrea. He tells me he has seen me
in various parts of the city, because he drives a cab. I hope I recognize him
when I see him next time with his cab. I have to remember so many faces.
When I am walking on the Medeber market the girls
I pictured last time are coming to me to see the copies of the pictures. I have
to make more pictures. I ask if I can make video. They point at the workshop on
their left. When I enter the workshop with my camera, I realize these girls are
trying to make fun with me. The girls in the neighboring workshop crouch down
when they see the video camera, laugh at by the girls next door. I take revenge
on them by making some close ups of them.
When I pass the primary school of Medeber, the
pupils attracts my attention by shouting through the closed gate
"atta" (hey you). They want me to picture them. I do not know if it is
one of the teachers or the concierge, but suddenly I am invited to come in. When
I start making video of the children, they do their best to shout and jump and
if I move the camera to the right, they go to the right, if I move the lens of
camera to the left, they move to the left. The teacher tries to calm them with
his wooden stick. It does not help.
When I pass the textile market, an Ethiopian boy
is trying to convince me of his "problem". He wants to go to Ethiopia
but he can't. It has to do something with Nakfa's. I ask one of the locals if he
can explain what the "problem" is. The Ethiopian boy is gone. The
local raises his thumb to express his approval.
I visit the house of Froyni to say goodbye to her
as well. When the three smaller children see the video camera they start to sing
the repertoire they learned at school.
Tonight there is a party at the Asmara Expo grounds for
all Eritrean tourists living in the Diaspora. This time I have an invitation as
well. To my surprise president Isaias Afwerki is present as well. I start to
realize the party is for Eritreans in the Diaspora and not for the rest of the
tourists. But nobody bothers. So I have some beers and try to dance. The
Eritrean dance is very uncomplicated (mainly feet-shuffling and
shoulder-jerking) and easy to learn. At five o'clock in the
morning the party is over and we walk home.
Asmara schoolgirls in their
Colorful jebena's (Eritrean coffee
pots) at the Asmara market.
Eritrean handicraft at the Asmara market.
One of the girls of the
Damera bar & pastry.
Girl grinding spices (berbere) in
a Medeber workshop.
Schoolchildren of the Medeber elementary school.
Hostesses handing out red roses at the Asmara Expo
Eritrean band playing at the expo party.
Proud and happy Eritrean dancing at the Expo party.
Eritrean women dancing at the Expo party.