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Eritrea May 2004
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May 2004 - Celebrating the
13th anniversary of Eritrea
 
 

Asmara Eritrea - May 15th 2004

 

As promised, I have breakfast in the house of Yordanos and Feshaye. Yordanos makes me an omelet and Eritrean coffee. Alana hugs my hand. Yordanos is born in Debarwa, so I ask her if she will accompany me to her town to visit her family. She is pleasantly surprised by the plan. We will go there the day after the celebrations.

Every time I visit Eritrea there is some visible improvement. During the last five years development efforts have been very successful. Buildings under renovation, new residential housing. New medical facilities, water management (canals as an outlet for the water during the rainy season). The Asmara Bus Company bought a new fleet of modern buses.

The Eritreans are doing their best to improve their situation, in spite of the difficult situation created by its war crying neighbor Ethiopia. The Ethiopian regime is continuing its opposition to the demarcation process in conformity with the final and binding decision of the Boundary Commission in The Hague, hoping to gain by sabotaging the peace process, and attempting to stop or slow down Eritrean economic and social development, sponsored by Western development aid.

During my walk through Asmara, I suddenly discover the Castello Restaurant, where I had diner with Mebrat in 1999. It is in a bit remote location on a hill, a few blocks from the Sunshine hotel. Not so easy to find, but well worth looking for. Their lasagna is a pleasant surprise, and the bill is a second surprise: 44 Nakfa, including mineral water and a juicy fruit salad. I have to visit this restaurant more often.

Taxi drivers are inviting me to take a taxi. They slow down, convinced a tourist will not walk with these high temperatures. But I like to walk, to watch the shop windows, the people. Every once and a while I take some rest in one of the many small bars. The bell tower of the cathedral is my guide to the center of Asmara.

During my visit to the house of Freweini and Haile, I try to explain the children (who are to young to speak any English) to collect used telephone cards. They do not understand. What is the use of the cards if they are finished? I explain to them that my colleagues collects them. I promise them two Nakfa's for every card they find in the Telecommunications office.

After a few minutes they come back. I understand the the guard in the office threatened that they would be arrested if they took the cards from the wastepaper baskets. They were forced to put them back. I visit the office myself. The guard is an old man, who will not allow any other activities in the office besides making phone calls and paying for them. When I ask him if I can make a picture of the beautiful paintings on the wall, the answer is clear: "No pictures".

Children collect money for their football club. I give them a few Nakfa's. Old men are trying to sell me old coins. I try to ignore them. "He, Sweden!" An old man thinks he recognizes me. I am not Swedish. He asks if he can have my old cloths, every time I visit Eritrea. Have to disappoint him again. I will leave my old clothes with Terhas. She will know who needs them.

At 8:00 PM I take the bus to the Corea house, which is opposite to the Asmara Intercontinental Hotel. The bus is crowded. The passengers offer to keep my luggage, so I have two hands to buy a ticket and to hold on to the iron bar. I would not entrust my luggage to strangers in Amsterdam, but in Asmara it is safe.

Some elderly passengers try to start a conversation in Italian. Just before I get of the bus a shake hands with them. The "Bruch leti" (good night) results in a lot of smiles and approval of the surrounding passengers.

In the Eritrean Airlines plane, I read that there will be a concert of Dehab Faytinga and Hellen Meles on May 23rd, the day before Independence Day. I do not want to miss this event. At the reception of the hotel I buy myself a ticket for 120 Nakfa. This is almost the monthly payment for someone in the military, which means that only a few hundred lucky Asmarinos can afford to enjoy the performance.

I decide to spend the rest of the evening in the Berhe Aiba Club, next to the Asmara Intercontinental. It a a new modern bar with four or five beautiful young girls serving the many customers, a mixture of UN personal, tenants of the nearby Corea Housing Complex and guests of the neighboring Asmara Intercontinental. It is the only bar around and the girls have to work hard.

I try the recently introduced Asmara Stout. It tastes good. Ten Nakfa for a bottle of beer (a little less than a dollar). I celebrate my first day getting a bit drunk, hoping it will make my blood useless to the mosquitoes and have a good nights rest. I tease the girls by pointing the camera at them. They don't mind. I have to e-mail them the results. 

 

Alana and Alex - children of Feshaye and Yordanos.

Alana and Alex - children of Feshaye and Yordanos.

Irga building - Asmara Eritrea.

Irga building - Asmara Eritrea.

Castello restaurant - Asmara Eritrea

Castello restaurant - fantastic lasagna - nice price - garden restaurant.
Just a few blocks away from the Sunshine Hotel - Asmara Eritrea.

Little bar in the center of Asmara Eritrea.

Little bar in the center of Asmara Eritrea.

Yodit and Jerusalem - daughters of Haile and Freweini.

Yodit and Jerusalem - daughters of Haile and Freweini.

John, Jonas, Michael and Josief - The sons of Haile and Freweini.

John, Jonas, Michael and Josief - The sons of Haile and Freweini.

Mai Jah Jah - Water cascades Asmara Eritrea.

Mai Jah Jah - Water cascades Asmara Eritrea.

Mai Jah Jah - Water cascades Asmara Eritrea.

Mai Jah Jah - Water cascades Asmara Eritrea.

Saint Francesco Catholic Church - Asmara Eritrea.

Saint Francesco Catholic Church - Asmara Eritrea.

Painting in the Asmara Intercontinental Hotel (EPLF fighters).

Painting in the reception hall of the Asmara Intercontinental Hotel
 (Isaias Afwerki accompanied by other EPLF fighters).

 

 
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