Afabet & Nacfa Eritrea - September 16th 2002
It is not difficult to get up at 4:00 in rural
Keren. Cocks, dogs, donkeys, they all do their best to wake up the village. At
5:00 we walk to the Keren bus terminal. The bus will leave at 6:00 but it is the
only bus serving Nacfa, so we have to be early to have ourselves a seat. The window of the
back door is missing. A good opportunity to make some video while we are
driving. The road from Keren to Nacfa is a rough road.
The mountain is smoothed, but the asphalt is missing. The bus crosses a dry riverbed every
once and a while, and I think what a spectacular journey it would be in the
rainy season. We pass Hamelmal, Giz Giza, Kelamet and Felket.
After three hours the approach to Afabet is
marked by the avenue of little, white-brick tree surrounds, which protects the Nim trees against
the hungry goats. In Afabet the passengers, and the old bus, have a rest for 30
minutes. In a makeshift tearoom, barely more than a wall and a roof of many branches,
we drink tea with lots of sugar. I walk a few hundred meters into this little
town. Two half naked children are playing in the sand, looking surprised when I
catch them in their game with my camera.
From Adi Shirum the bus follows the course of
the riverbed of the river Hidai for some 30 kilometers via Kub Kub and Beyan.
Naked rusty carcasses of Ethiopian military vehicles lie beside the track, as a
result of an Ethiopian air strike on their own forces trapped in the valley in
1988 when the EPLF finally captured Afabet, the main supply depot and military
intelligence center of the Ethiopian army in Eritrea. The last 10 kilometers
after Beyan are a steep climb on a narrow road to the plateau on which Nacfa
lies. I wonder what will happen if a truck is coming from the opposite
At 13:00 we enter Nacfa, and I immediately recognize
its famous mosque. The minaret of the mosque still shows the bullet holes
of the war of liberation, as a living monument of the fierce fighting in and
around Nacfa, the symbol of Eritrean resistance to the Ethiopian occupation. The rest
of the town has been completely rebuild and looks neatly. We walk through the town
and climb the hill on which the new Apollo hotel overlooks Nacfa.
I expected a rather surly attitude of the 100% Muslim
population of Nacfa, but to my surprise the people are just as warm as in any
other part of Eritrea. The climate is a bit cooler than that in Keren, because
Nacfa is on a 1.800 meter high plateau, and there is nothing that stops the wind
from blowing freely.
I ask a camel driver how much it will cost to
ride on the camel. He wants to charge me 300 Nacfa (20 dollar). Gebre tells me this is to
much. I will wait until we are back in Keren. All of a sudden the "AllahUAkber"
sounds from the mosque. We watch the men performing their daily obligatory
prayers. In the evening the town circle with its
beautiful flowers is lighted by many white bulbs and the fountain spurts its
water, while the bars around the roundabout are playing traditional Eritrean
Gebre arranges the return tickets to Keren for
tomorrow morning when we see the driver of the bus. We eat and drink lots of
araki and walk through the center of the city. Music is blaring out from inside
every cafe, everybody looks happy. At 21:00 we go to the hotel
Halhalle where we have a small room for 30 Nakfa with two beds, a table and a
chair and an outside toilet (just a hole in the ground) and bathroom. We have
to get up very early. I wrap myself into the mosquito net. It is to late to install
Riverbed crossing the road to Afabet and Nacfa.
Little tea and coffee bar at the stopover in Afabet.
Main street and famous mosque of Nacfa.
Triptych describing the war of liberation around Nacfa.
The outskirts of Nacfa on top of one of the hills.
1996 Apollo hotel Nacfa on top of one of the hills.
Woman washing clothes in the river passing Nacfa.
March 23rd - Nacfa - basis of our liberation - our banner - our currency.
The children of Nacfa.
The town circle - Giro Fiori Nacfa.
Postcard of Nacfa Eritrea
(completely destroyed in the
years of the war, being under continuous bombardment)
Symbol of Eritrean resistance to Ethiopian occupation.