Agordat Eritrea - May 19th 2004
Today there will be local elections
in all Eritrean towns. Small posters of the local candidates are pasted to
almost every building. Almaz tells me that she expects most shops in Agordat will be
closed. I ask her a large bottle of mineral water. I use half a bottle to
compensate the sweating of tonight and mix it with the vitamins. With the other
half I start the climb of the last hill indicating "Forto" in the
Bradt Travel Guide of Eritrea. From below, I can only see the obelisk, a
monument to the Italians killed during WW2.
When I reach the top of the hill, I realize I am
not a very welcome guest. A member of the Eritrean military is guarding the
place. It is not only a historical site, but also a point of strategic interest,
hosting a telecommunications post. In a language that I cannot understand he addresses
a few words to me. Although I do not understand their meaning, I assume it is
"Get the hell out of here!" And so I do, afraid he will change his
mind to start a more thorough investigation.
When I am down, I run into Almaz,
who will do some shopping. Since I do not have anything else to do, I
accompany her for half an hour, following her to the local butcher and the
market. She suggests I visit the roof of the hospital to
have a good view over the Barka river and Agordat.
I follow her advise, but do
not forget to ask permission to go to the roof, that is also used as a
bedroom for some of the maintenance personnel. They are surprised to see
me, but it is ok. looking down I see the many traditional houses,
surrounded by Akat trees and Doum Palms.
I pass the office were the
people of Agordat vote for their local government. Hundreds of colorful
women and men in white clothes wait patiently. The police is keeping an
eye on the crowd and on passing tourists trying to make a picture.
I return to the hotel. Almaz
makes traditional Eritrean style coffee. Seven cups. She attracts the birds to us with some
popcorn. We eat kitcha. She shows me the beauty of the nests that the
birds made in her garden. I feel sorry for not bringing a small gift for
Almaz. I did not expect a hotel owner to treat you like you're family.
Searching through my luggage, the only thing I can find as a gift is my
most beautiful pencil. I promise her to return to her hotel next time I
At the bus station I have bad
luck. The bus is just leaving, and there will be only a few buses leaving
Agordat today, because of the elections. Local children are begging for a
pencil or some Nakfa's. After two hours the small Toyota mini bus has
enough passengers to leave to Keren.
When we leave Agordat there is
another thorough passport check. Before entering Keren I have to show my
passport another two times. Check, check, double check.
In Keren I have lunch with
Elen and her daughters. They invite me to join them to voting office, and
so I do. A lot of people know me by now in Keren, so nobody minds when I
intermingle with the crowd waiting to vote. Quite different from Agordat,
where the police politely asked me to move a few blocks.
Suddenly I observe Hansu and
Afworki in the crowd. They are surprised that I am back so soon. I tell them the road
to Barentu is closed for foreigners, so I had to shorten the trip to the
western parts of Eritrea.
Rahel asks me to come with
them to their restaurant to drink some beers, but soon it will be dark, so
I choose to go back with Hansu and Afworki instead. I have not forgotten
the search for Afworki's house a few nights ago. In the grocery shop I
buy a large bottle of mineral water, and visit friends, neighbors and
family to say goodbye Tomorrow I will return to Asmara.
Hotel B. G. Selassie or Belamberas
- Agordat Eritrea.
View over the banks of the
Barka river -
View over Agordat Eritrea.
Poster for one of the kandidates
of the local elections - Agordat Eritrea.
Local elections - Agordat Eritrea.
Bar and restaurant - Agordat Eritrea.
Almaz, owner of Hotel B. G.
Selassie or Belamberas - Agordat
Even the birds feel at ease
on Almaz' hotel compound.
Celebrating May 24th 2004 - Agordat Eritrea.
Small grocery shop - Agordat Eritrea.