Ghinda Eritrea - September 25th 2002
I always wondered what Ghinda would be like. I
never saw more of this little Eritrean village than the restaurants that line the road to Massawa, when the bus uses the village as a stopover.
At the bus station in Asmara, they charge me for the whole trip to Massawa. I don’t think this is correct, but it is a very modern and neat bus, and its only 12
When we arrive in Ghinda, I drink some coke’s.
A girl with her little brother tries to sell me one of her small baskets. She's
dressed in beautiful traditional clothes. I am more interested in picturing her
than in her baskets. But when I want to picture her, she escapes the lens of the
camera. With the help of the audience, I ask why she does not want to be
pictured. "She is afraid you will tell that we are beggars when you are
back home", one of the bystanders explains to me. "But I am the one who is
begging", I reply. But I cannot convince them.
No further excitement here, so I walk back a few hundred meters and take a sideway, up hill. It looks like I am one of the very few to walk these little dusty streets. Wherever I go, a bunch of children is following me. They want pencils or
Nakfa’s or just some attention. When I pull my wallet out of my pocket, I am immediately surrounded by at least ten children. Since I do not have so many one
Nakfa notes, I change my mind.
One little girl keeps following my, telling she needs the pen for school. I try to convince her that I only have one pen. I need it myself. When she keeps insisting, I give up and give her my last pen. After a few minutes she returns. “They have stolen my pen”. Bad luck for her. I tell her it was my last pen. “Then please give me ten
Nakfa’s”. I start ignoring her, but it does not help. I return to the main street to have a
drink in one of the restaurants. The little girl keeps waiting outside. When I tell one of the Eritrean visitors what she’s doing, and point to her, she’s gone.
When I make video, a men is approaching me, telling I need a permit to make video. Knowing this is absolute nonsense in a place like this, I guide him to one of the local policemen that happens to walk her and ask the opinion of the policeman. My opinion is confirmed, and I continue to make video. What do they think tourist do in this remote area? All tourist make video and pictures. This so called “necessity for a permit” must be one of the remains of the recent war with Ethiopia. The Eritrean government asked his citizens to watch out for spy’s. The war is over, but some Eritreans are still on red alert.
After a two hours walk on the slope of the hill, taking little alleys, talking
to the children and people I meet, I decide to look for the railway station.
From the hill I see dark smoke that must come from one of the antique
locomotives. I cross the road to Massawa to visit the other part of the village.
It appears the smoke was not from the locomotive, but fortunately I am walking
in the right direction. I ask a small boy where to find the train.
"Babur" he translates. "Babur" I repeat. About one mile from
the road to Massawa I reach Ghinda's railway station and I give the boy some Nakfa's and a coke.
After resting a few minutes I enter the railway
site and start picturing the few trains that wait for their rehabilitation.
There are some workers cleaning the interior of the carriages, and a 1954 German
diesel locomotive is shunting. I ask them about the progress of the
reconstruction. They are now very close to Asmara. Next year I must be able to
do the trip from Asmara to Massawa.
When I walk back to the main road, I see a
donkey cart. I ask the boys riding the cart how much it will cost me to take me
to the bus station. They charge me five Nakfa's which is almost the same as the
fare for the trip back to Asmara. But it is just a quarter of a dollar, so why should
I mind? It's fun and it is to hot to walk.
The bus to Asmara is almost empty. We have to
wait until there are 24 passengers. I claim the seat next to the driver and
watch the daily routines around the bus stop. Two donkeys are galloping around
the buses. After 30 minutes we leave for
Asmara. And for the first time it rains. The rain immediately forms small rills
that cross the road freely. The bus stops at every little village, where
passengers board to occupy the aisle and luggage is stored on the roof.
The bridge over the river that passes Ghinda.
Arrival of the bus in Ghinda.
The road to Massawa passing Ghinda.
The streets of Ghinda.
Little grocery shop in Ghinda.
Women surprised by unexpected Dutch tourist.
Little tailor shop in Ghinda.
Judging the quality of textile at
the market in Ghinda.
Carrying water from Ghinda's central water supply.
Antique locomotive - "Babur" - at the Ghinda