Asmara May 23rd 2001
The first night in the apartment proved that you
do need blankets during the Eritrean nights. With temperatures of more then 30
degrees in the daytime in Asmara we left the windows open at night. The dramatic drop of
the temperature however resulted in a very chilly situation in the early morning.
After our breakfast (usually little white breads
with locally produced cheese and meat, milk and coffee), I decided to explore
the city of Asmara. First by walking Harnet Avenue in both directions and
then entering the side-streets. I made some kind of program before I came to
Asmara of things that should be done and places that should be visited but
actually, the show was in Harnet Avenue itself.
It passed either on the street, or it flew over our heads.
"Sir, are you interested in old coins? Want
to sell dollars? I offer you a good price." The old coins often are replicas
of the silver thaler coin, embossed with the head of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria,
which were used as legal tender after 1780. Some older men make a living of
selling these coins and changing money. I prefer to use the office in the main
street of Asmara. Unofficial trade of money is forbidden, but I have been
told that the government of Eritrea tolerates this unofficial money market.
On the Medeber market a woman comes to me and
starts begging in Italian. I ask the bystanders what she wants (I know what she
wants, but actually I want their opinion on if I should give anything).
"She is mad and she wants some money". The way they say it suggests
that she really needs the money. So I give her 10 Nakfa. I know it is to much.
But she is so excited that she starts to dance and shout. And I have a happy
audience who are laughing on the little show the zululti is giving.
For my stay in Eritrea I designed five different
t-shirts, all congratulating Eritrea in both English and Tigrinya. They are a
big success. "absolutely perfect", says the lady in the bookshop. She
wants to buy one. And she is not the only one. But what am I going to wear if I
sell them? They are my only clothes.
I also visit Stefanos who is an internet service
provider in Asmara. There are several cyber cafe's in Asmara. The first one was
a branch office of Telecommunications. Connections are still slow, but you can login
on your hotmail account. I had forgotten the address of Stefanos. In other
major cities in the world this would be an insurmountable problem. But not in
Asmara. While I was walking with the scarce information I had in my mind, a car
stopped and the guy asked "can we help you?". They told me they had
seen me in the Ministry of Information last year. Less than five minutes later
I was in the office of Stefanos!
Later, in the afternoon I followed the crowd to
the Meskerem Parade Grounds, where I enjoy the singing and dancing. Like I
did last year I tried to participate in their party. It gives me a very good
feel, celebrating with the Eritrean people. More than once I would hear
"now you are my brother" (or family).
Independent Eritrea 24-5-1993
Celebrating 10 years liberation.
Banners against houses, workshops,
offices and factories,
remembering Eritrean fierce history and Eritrea's future.
"Victory to our struggle" - "Victory to our
Helicopters flew by, pulling huge banners behind them and the
Eritrean Air force gave demonstrations above the city of Asmara.
In the afternoon there was a parade of singing people, music and floats.
Children singing "Happy birthday" and bringing an ode to the camel,
one of their most valuable means of transport during the 30 year
liberation struggle and the national symbol of the state of Eritrea.
Telecom Services of Eritrea - Internet Service Provider Office - Asmara.
Children dressed for the party at Bahti
Singing and dancing at Bahti Meskerem
Dancing in traditional clothes at Bahti
Meskerem Square Asmara.
The gate at the entrance of Bahti Meskerem
10 candles - one for every year of freedom.