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May 2004 - Celebrating the
13th anniversary of Eritrea
 
 

Asmara - Keren - May 16th 2004

 

I wake up at 6:00, take my daily ration of vitamin pills and the weekly malaria tablet. With clothes and other necessities for five days, I leave to the Keren bus station, just behind the Kidane Mehret Church. Although there is many buses going to Keren every day, it is better to take an early bus, because of the heat.

On my way to the bus station, one of the military tries to stop me. There is a bicycle race in progress. I cannot cross the street. I tell him I am on my way to the bus station. He assists to cross the street without hindering the cyclists.

At the bus station I buy some biscuits and a large bottle of mango juice for the two hour trip to Keren. The boys that accompany the buses will vocally announce their destination, that is either Keren, Agordat, Barentu, or one villages between Asmara and Keren. Just to be sure I ask the passengers if the destination is Keren. The answer is positive and some of the passengers point to the back of the bus, to indicate the last free seats.

The bus is visited several times by peddlers trying to sell household utensils, watches, handkerchiefs, candy or chewing gum. When all the seats are occupied we leave the bus station. The bus is slow, especially on the curved and narrow road descending the escarpment of Asmara.

Halfway we have a brake at a small restaurant. I order a fruit juice, imitating one of the other passengers. He tells me I am his guest, he will pay the drink. I object, but before I can draw my walled he paid the 10 Nakfa for the two consumptions.

I told Afeworki not to wait for me at the bus station. I know my way to his house. First I will visit Elen and her two daughters, Rahel and Hidat. I am lucky. Rahel tells me there will be a wedding tonight and I HAVE to come. I am their special guest. One of the relatives of the Bridegroom is from Holland. She will introduce me to him.

I spend the rest of the day walking through Keren, climbing the hills for beautiful views and visiting some friends, the family and the neighbors of Afworki and Hansu. When I tell Hansu that I am invited for the wedding, she is a bit worried, afraid I will get lost in the dark. "I will ask Bereket to pick you up at 11:00 PM". There is a second wedding close to Hansu and Afworki's house in a tent.

But I prefer the invitation of Elen and her daughters. They are so enthusiast every time I visit them. At 19:00 PM I am in the restaurant, where the many guest are waiting for the arrival of the bride and bridegroom. It is still hot, and I prefer to join the guests sitting in the garden behind the restaurant.

I discuss the peace process with some intellectuals. They tell me that peace with Eritrea will destabilize Ethiopia, where many ethnical groups are waiting to start their own war of liberation to reverse the history of Ethiopia's imperialism. So making war is Ethiopia's style of "nation building".

 The high temperatures at daytime and the ambiance are a good reason to have some beers. As I expected Rahel and Hidat  challenge me to dance. Women are handclapping to the music. We dance and have fun all the evening.

At 23:00 I watch outside to see if Bereket came to collect me. Not a sign of Hansu's nephew. So I I rejoin the party, where the beers are finished. But Rahel organizes a couple of beers from her private stock to slake the poor tourist' thirst.

When it is midnight, I have to choose. Bereket did not show up, and it is dark, very dark. Even the moon went down. The road to the house is dangerous and surrounded by many grooves cut into the landscape in the rainy season. I can also stay at the party until it is finished, but what will be Hansu's thoughts if I do not show up?

I decide to take the chance and I walk in the direction of the house, using the flashlight of my camera every once an a while to get a fast impression of the surrounding area to be sure of not losing my way. Very careful, to reduce the risk of a disabling fall or an unpleasant meeting with a group of cacti.

 I am lucky. Only one time I slip into a groove, without getting hurt. The sound of the music of the other wedding is my guide to find the house. Hansu apologizes for the fact that her nephew has forgotten to pick me up. But she is proud of me that I found my way to her house in the complete dark.

 

Cycle racing - Asmara Eritrea.

Cycle racing - Asmara Eritrea.

Selling household utensils in the Asmara - Keren bus.

Selling household utensils in the Asmara - Keren bus.

Neighbors of Hansu and Afeworki in their grocery shop - Keren Eritrea.

Neighbors of Hansu and Afeworki in their grocery shop - Keren Eritrea.

View on Keren from one of the hills.

View on Keren from one of the hills.

Albergo Sicilia - Keren Eritrea.

Albergo Sicilia - Keren Eritrea.

Bride and bridegroom at the wedding in Keren Eritrea.

Bride and bridegroom at the wedding in Keren Eritrea.

The buffet at the wedding in Keren Eritrea.

The buffet at the wedding in Keren Eritrea.

Dancing at the wedding in Keren Eritrea.

Dancing at the wedding in Keren Eritrea.

The wedding cake at the wedding in Keren Eritrea.

The wedding cake at the wedding in Keren Eritrea.

The band at the wedding in Keren Eritrea.

The band at the wedding in Keren Eritrea.

 

 
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