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Eritrea September 2002
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 2002 Touring through Eritrea
 

 

Asmara Eritrea - September 10th 2002

 

Today the Orthodox Christian Eritreans celebrate the eve of the traditional Ge'ez New Year. For most families this means the slaughter of a sheep or goat, or for the less blessed, a chicken. Children are reciting old chants and preparing bundles of dried twigs to light in the evening.

Feshaye has bought a goat. I join him to visit the slaughter in Kahauta, who will prepare it for the evening. In the meantime I do some walking in the area. I do not like the bloody scenes. The meat disappears in the trunk of the Toyota and Feshaye drops me at the covered market, where I will start my stroll through the city.

At the covered markets I ask for the prices of some souvenirs at various stalls. The drums made of oil cans and goat skin will cost me 70 Nakfa. No price differences between the merchants. But the drums are not as beautiful as I expected them to be. I will wait to find better ones. I try to make some pictures, but the women immediately hide behind the stalls when they see the camera, as if I am pointing a gun at them. The boys on the other hand are amused by the shouting of the women and encourage me to make pictures.

In the small workshops surrounding the markets the workers separate, sieve and prepare the various grains to make flour. Little horse drawn carts are waiting to transport the merchandise. Children are playing with used tyres, or playing football with a ball made of a sock, filled with rag.

In the afternoon I walk to Edaga Arbi to visit the family of Mebrat. Saba wants to come to Holland, or Europe. I ask her what she will do in Holland. "Find a job, and get some education". We chat about the subject for more than an hour. I try to convince her that moving to a rich country is not a guarantee for a better life, about immigration regulations. Things have changed in Holland. Rules are strict. Turned away asylum seekers are living on the street and in churches, or have to hide themselves. How can she expect education or a proper job under these circumstances? "The same government that has to provide your education, will be looking for you if you decide to stay in Holland illegally". I cannot convince her.

Saba invites me to drink coffee made in the traditional Eritrean style. She shows me her room. Stone walls painted olive green. A carpet with Jesus Christ against the wall. I recognize the picture of Mebrat's father on the cabinet in Saba's room. Life must be a bit dull without a job, switching between her home in Asmara and the military camp in Adi Keih. I feel sorry for her but I don't think there is any chance for a nice career for this girl in Holland. Her education is virtually none, her knowledge of English is poor and she does not want to get married.

In the evening I witness the feast of  K'ddus Yohannes, the eve of the Ge'ez New Year. The children set fire to their self made torches in old Sembel, Asmara. Children are running on the streets with their burning torches, shouting and singing. I am invited to step across on of the burning torches. Tree times forward and three times backward will give me their blessings. Part of the tradition is to give the kids a few coins, but coins are scarce in my wallet and I need some for the telephone, so I appoint one of them to share out a twenty Nakfa note (one dollar). In the narrow street the neighbors have constructed a tent. One of the neighbors sons drowned in a nearby lake, the family and all neighbors are mourning.

 

Asmara covered markets.

Girl selling vegetables at the Asmara covered markets.

Three wheel motorized bicycle for handicapped ex-soldier.

Three wheel motorized bicycle for handicapped ex-soldier.

Busy street next to the covered markets.

Busy street next to the covered markets.

Woman selling chickens and eggs near the Asmara market.

Woman selling chickens and eggs near the Asmara market.

Selamawit in the court yard behind their house in Edaga Arbi.

Senait in the court yard behind their house in Edaga Arbi.

Neighbor of Gorzite and Selamawit roasting atar on the court yard.

Neighbor of Senait and Saba roasting atar on the court yard.

Grinding the atar to make shuro (vegetable stew).

Grinding the atar to make shuro (vegetable stew).

Selamawit and Gorzite cooking me pasta in the small kitchen next to the house.

Senait and Saba cooking me pasta in the small kitchen next to the house.

Tabotu making Eritrean coffee

And of course there is a traditional Eritrean coffee ceremony.

Children lighting torches to celebrate K'ddus Yohannes (New Year).

Children lighting torches to celebrate the eve of K'ddus Yohannes (New Year).

 

 
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