Keren Eritrea - October 12th 2003
At 6:30 I arrive at the bus station for my
trip to Keren. It seems there are only two seats left, so the bus will leave in
a few minutes. On the last pair of seats before the rear entrance of the bus
lays some kind of rag at the window side. When no one claims it when I show it
to the other passengers, I assume someone has forgotten it. A veiled Muslim girl
takes the last seat next to me. I have some kind of breakfast of biscuits and
mango juice and share the biscuits with the passengers on the surrounding seats.
At 7:00 the bus sounds its horn to announce
its departure. An old man hastens to get in and suddenly there is a lot of
confusion about the two seats that I and the Muslim girl occupy. Than I realize
tat the rag actually was a claim for the seat. It belonged to the old man. The
solution is made: The Muslim girl should leave the bus and I am to take her
seat. I feel guilty and offer her my seat, prepared to take the next bus if necessary.
The offer is rejected by all passengers involved. The European guest should not
leave the bus. The Muslim girl will have to wait for the next bus and I have to
make the trip next to the old man, who may very well feel insulted by my lack of
respect for his cloth.
The sunny side of the bus is quite hot, in
spite of the curtains. Half way we have a pause to drink some tea. There is a
run on the bus of little boys and girls, trying to sell atar and other small
food to the passengers. Adults are selling fruits like watermelons. When I
point the camera at them they hide. Obviously non of the kids want to be
pictured while trading. When I offer them some Nakfa's, I suddenly am surrounded
by volunteers, but since it was my intention to picture the kids selling atar
and not to make a group photo, I have to disappoint them.
At 10:15 we arrive in Keren. Habte is waiting
for me. Yesterday I called Hansu to announce I was coming. I will stay with her
and Afworki in their house. I could have booked a hotel, but it would have been
an insult not to sleep i their house. And it gives me the feel of being
"home". I will sleep in the guest room in a good bed under a mosquito
First thing we do is visit the shrine of
Mariam Dearit. We buy some candles to light in front of the Maria statue. For 80
Nakfa we find a taxi to take us to the place. The taxi will wait and bring us
back. There is many people either to visit the shrine to pray, or to picnic at
the compound. After our visit to this holy place we return to Keren to visit
other places of interest.
In bar Estefanos I meat one of the passengers
of the plane. She is from Rotterdam like me. Her family owns the place her
in Keren. I get acquainted with her family and we have some rest and Coca Cola.
The pace of life is slow in Keren and I have to temper my enthousiasm, because
Habte is not used to rush next to a tourist. No reason to be in a hurry when
life is dull. For the children of Keren, the passing of a tourist is a welcome
interupt in their daily routine. "Se'alena, se'alena" (picture us).
Before we know we are surrounded by a lot of kids.
I spend the rest of the day visiting friends
and their family. Since it is almost impossible to refuse to eat, I only do my
best to avoid eating meat. So I eat injera with shuro, a chickpea stew, to
fill my stomach, and some oranges for the vitamins. And lots of tea. And
Eritrean coffee (almost impossible to refuse, before you realize it, the host is
roasting the coffee beans). Of course I visit the neighbors as well. If Hansu
and Afworki are at work, I am their guest. "You have to come back tomorrow
to picture me and my dog", Yohanna, the neighbors daughter says.
Afworki has to to some business down town. I
join him on his walk. When we return is is completely dark. In Keren this means
you have to navigate with the moon light and some rare street lights after
leaving the town center.
Boy selling atar (roasted chickpeas) at the
stopover to Keren.
Boarding of the rough road bus -Keren bus
The landscape of Keren Eritrea on our way
Keren - Mariam Dearit - an ancient baobab tree,
containing . . . . .
. . . . . the shrine of St. Mariam Dearit, a statue of
the Virgin Mary.
Silver smith and souvenir shop - Keren Eritrea.
Chapel of the Italian war cemetary - Keren Eritrea.
Graves of the unknown soldiers - Italian
war cemetery - Keren Eritrea.
(Neighbors daughter) Fortuna - Keren