The trip to Assab - May 15th 2003
At 4:30 we have to get up and at 5:00 we
leave Edi. Notwithstanding the poor conditions in the hotel I had a good nights
rest. Most of the other passengers of the bus try to get some extra sleep. When
we approach Assab the landscape is dominated by black volcanic mountains. In the
Red Sea that appears alongside the road every once and a while, volcanic islands
rise from the sea.
At the last checkpoint before Assab the bus
need some last repairs. The bottom must have been hit by a rock driving to Edi
last night. The engineer of the bus tries to straighten the part. The passengers
refresh themselves with the water from the big jerry can in front of the bus. I
try to do the same, sitting next to the road with the other passengers. I am
adapting fast to these circumstances, and my interaction with the group is
The passengers ask what I will do in Assab.
Proud I show them the letters I received from friends in Holland (Naval base
Assab) and the family in Edaga Arbi (Eritrean Defense Forces, Assab). "You
are an Eritrean!". The passengers of the bus complement me on the fact I
have the courage to travel 800 kilometers to visit the family of my wife, who is
serving the Eritrean Defence Forces.
At 8:00 we arrive in Assab. My fear to be
lost in the middle of nowhere, 800 kilometers from Asmara, is wrong. Both the
brother of my wife, Hadgembes, and Tekie, the brother of Feshaye (with his
taxi!) are waiting for the bus. Hadgembes tells me they have been to the airport
as well, because they did not expect I would make the trip by bus.
After checking in in the Assab Pension, and a
cold shower, I get a sight seeing through Assab. We visit the higher
grounds to watch over Assab, the port and the beach, where we have a drink. We
visit the Ras Gombo Beach Hotel. Although it is not better than the Assab
Pension, I would have preferred this Hotel. It is close to the beach and the breeze
from the sea makes it a more peasant place to stay.
At noon Tekie will resume his usual job as a
taxi driver and I walk through Assab with Hadgembes. Large parts of the town are
deserted. 50% of the people of Assab were of Ethiopian origin and have left the
town after the recent war. We have lunch in one of the many restaurants and have
some rest. It is too hot to walk anyway.
Later in the afternoon we resume our walk. Hadgembes
takes me to Campo Sudan, an area in Assab with rather poor wooden houses. Three
women sit in front of their house eating injera. When we pass them, one of them
starts feeding me the injera. I accept their hospitality, although I realize it
is risky in this heat. They want us to have a drink with them. Hadgembes
When we are out of sight, I ask Hadgembes why
we did not have a drink with the ladies. He does not answer the question. So I
have to guess. Where they whores, or Ethiopians, or both? Assab is a port. And
there is a lot of poverty in this area. Every once and a while a poor beggar
comes to us, to ask a few Nakfa's. Hadgembes asks them to leave. We eat injera
with shiro, a chick pea stew. I do not have the courage to eat any meat in this
I drink a lot of arakis, hoping the mosquitoes
will not drink my blood. I agreed with Hadgembes he would sleep in the other
bed, but suddenly he is gone and does not return. I cannot lock the door as long
as he is not coming back. I wonder what happened. Maybe the owner of the hotel
does not allow a second guest.
During my next visit in October 2003 I will
hear he has been picked up by the military. He had permission to leave his job
in the morning, but choose not to go back to the military, but stay with me
The black landscape surrounding Assab
Doum palms around Assab
Assab pension - budget hotel.
Public transport in and around Assab.
Mosque in the center of Assab.
Red Sea beach - Assab Eritrea.
View over Assab from one of the hills.
Assab town circle.
Zeray Deres Hotel - Assab Eritrea.
Kebal International Hotel - Assab Eritrea.