Senafe Eritrea - September 19th 2002
I get up early. The planned 150 kilometer trip to Senafe will
bring me close to the Ethiopian border. The bus leaves at 7:30 and is checked
before entering Dekemhare, Adi Keih and Senafe. Between Adi Keih and Senafe
there is also a check by the UN checkpoint when we enter the Temporary Security
Zone. Never before I was subject of any checks, but this time the UN observer
standing in front of the bus wanted me to show my ID. So, sitting in the back of
the bus, I hold up my passport and the bus proceeded to its final
destination, Senafe, after a five hours journey.
The fist thing that caught my eye when leaving
the bus in Senafe, was the buildings destructed by the Ethiopian armed forces,
that invaded Eritrea in 2000. Where my general opinion is that the Eritreans are
doing a good job building up their country, the Ethiopians are masters in
tearing it down and than complain that they are hungry.
Civil Administration buildings such as the
telecommunications office, police station, shops, and even a church and the
hospital have been destroyed. It is evident that Ethiopian destruction and looting was
targeted mainly at important economic facilities and infrastructure, in an attempt to harm the
fragile economy of this poor but hard working nation and to demoralize the
Eritrean population of the region.
When I am walking on the busy cereal marked a
man comes to me and asks me to follow him to his office. He asks me if I have a
permit to make pictures. It is not the first time that I am checked, so I tell
him that I know of no permit and show him the three visa for my visits to
Eritrea in 2000, 2001 and 2002. I ask him to call the Ministry of Tourism if he
has any doubts. I proceed my walks through Senafe.
After a few hours I realize that there
will no bus to bring me back to Asmara today, so I decide to spend a few hours in Senafe and
take the bus to Adi Keih to spend the night there. I book a room in the Adi Keih
Hotel and walk through the village until it is getting dark. In a small
restaurant I try to order something to eat. The lady does not speak any English
so I need the help of one of the other visitors to explain what I want to eat.
A few minutes later she brings me a big egg
burger with lots of salad. Listening to the other visitors, I understand that
the lady's name is Senait. So I look at her and say "Senait, Tu'um!"
(delicious). These few words are most appreciated by both Senait and the other
guests of the little restaurant. They ask me where I come from and what I am
doing here. Then I go to the hotel to drink a lot of araki's to get a good
At 20:00 a guy comes to me to ask for the key's
of my hotel room. After half an hour he comes back and asks if I can come with
him to my room. I am a bit surprised. In the hotel room a very friendly police
man starts to ask me all kinds of questions. I show him my passport and tell him
about my Eritrean wife and the purpose of my visit to Senafe and Adi Keih. About
my previous visits and the fact that I was not able to see this part of Eritrea
in 2000 and 2001 because of the war.
It looks like I convinced him, but a few hours
later, when I am trying to sleep another policeman knocks on my door and asks
my passport. The passport is confiscated and I am told to report myself at the police
station at 8:00 next morning. I cannot catch sleep that night, not knowing what
these guys want from me. Did they see me make pictures of any military objects?
I remember my first visit to Eritrea when I was trying to picture a mosque.
Behind the mosque were anti-aircraft missiles, but they were so far that it was
impossible to see them. For the first time during my stay in Eritrea I am really
scared "What did I do wrong that these men take my passport?"
For the first time during my visit to Eritrea I
have to shit on a hole in the ground. I am not used to these kind of practices.
So I have to think a long time before I put my feet on the indicated places. I
should not wait until Asmara. Who knows what will happen in the police station
tomorrow morning. Fortunately I bought a lot of "softies" from the
children in Asmara, that are of use to me now.
UN armored vehicle near the
village of Senafe in the Temporary Security Zone.
Building bombed and looted by the Ethiopian
occupying forces in the year 2000.
The Senafe cereal market.
Senafe girl carrying her little
Orthodox church of Senafe.
The village of Senafe, build
against the slope of the mountain.
Woman selling spices and plaiting
a basket from straw in Senafe.
The village of Senafe seen from
The streets of Senafe.
The streets of Senafe.