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
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
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.
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
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
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.
Irga building - 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.
Yodit and Jerusalem -
daughters of Haile and Freweini.
John, Jonas, Michael and Josief -
The sons of Haile and Freweini.
Mai Jah Jah - Water cascades
Mai Jah Jah - Water cascades Asmara
Saint Francesco Catholic Church -
Painting in the reception
hall of the Asmara
(Isaias Afwerki accompanied by other EPLF fighters).