From Keren to Adi Quala - May 20th 2004
Hansu tells me that Tesfai, her
brother from Germany is going to Asmara today, and has offered me to go with
him. I give 300 Nakfa to Afworki. "But you are my brother", he
protests. "But I am your rich brother, and you will need it", I reply.
I drink coffee with Tesfai in the
Senhit hotel, and at 8:00 we are on our way to Asmara. But the car is giving
serious trouble between Keren and Elabered. The engine does not have the
strength to climb the mountains, so were return to Keren. I will go by public bus.
Half way between Keren and Asmara the 1.5 liter
mineral water is finished. I hide the empty bottle in the luggage net, between
the bags. But the bus bounces over the road and the bottle escapes after
some kilometers and finds the head of an Eritrean man sitting in front of me.
points on his forehead. I will never know if this is the spot where the bottle
hit him, or if it is his view on the Dutch tourist. The rest of the passengers
cannot suppress their laugh. I share the peanuts (foul) with him and the rest of
the passengers. And when I give a demonstration of my knowledge of Tigrinya, we
are friends (again).
It is a small walk from the Keren
bus station to the Adi Quala buses at another bus station. The bus is easily
found and I have one of the last seats, so there is hardly any delay. At the checkpoints
I show my permit to the Eritrean military police. No further problems.
Fortunately, I do not have to leave the bus ( I am in the back of it surrounded
by Eritrean women and their luggage). When we enter the Temporary Security Zone,
the Indian UN soldiers are not really interested in the bus. Again they do not
check the permit. At 15:00 I arrive in Adi Quala.
I walk from the bus station, just
outside Adi Quala to the Gash Hotel. The only room with a shower is not
available. But this is not a problem, because there is no running water anyway
at the moment. The toilet does not flush, but they arrange a bucket with water.
Problem solved. The personnel is very friendly. Yohannes tells me that I have to
visit the Italian mausoleum, a five kilometers walk in the direction of the
Ethiopian border. I will do that tomorrow, early in the morning, when the
temperature is low.
Now I will just follow the
main road through Adi Quala in both directions, and some of the alleys
crossing it. When I picture a house with an upside down bowl on a stick
(meaning that it is a Suwa bar), two Eritrean soldiers appear in the door
opening and invite me to try the Suwa, a kind of unfiltered home brew
They have told me that the
best Suwa comes from Adi Quala, so I ignore all other warnings, not to
drink suspicious liquids, and join the military men. When I ask them to
picture me, they explain that they are not supposed to make pictures,
being part of the military. But when I explain that the only alternative
is the old woman, serving the Suwa, they understand.
When I am on the streets
again, a local police man checks my papers. I show my passport and the
travel permit. Everything is ok. It will be the last check of the Adi
Quala police, so I assume the police man must have reported it at the
local police station. I am very close to the Ethiopian border, so I
expected some more checks.
On the local covered market I
buy a few banana's and some oranges. When I spit out the pits of the
oranges, I notice the children are watching me and imitate my spitting.
"You, you, what is your name?" "My name is Hannes", I
reply to make it easy for them. I ask them their names. At one of the
stalls I am invited to drink tea with the merchant.
In a small restaurant I find
myself something to eat. In the hotel it is still very warm, so I prefer
to be on the streets of Adi Quala, even when it is dark. Again I walk the
main street and some of the alleys. Children are playing their drums and
pose for my camera. "Good night", they say when I resume my walk
to the hotel. "Bruch leti", I answer them in Tigrinya. They are
Tired of walking I spend the
rest of the evening in the hotel, drinking one araki after the other,
making my blood useless to potential mosquito's and chat with the owner of
the hotel. He tells me that there was a lot of trade before the war.
People came from Asmara to buy cheap Ethiopian taff. It was a bustling
market town, attracting a lot of people, both from Eritrea and Ethiopia. Now there is hardly
any trade left. A boy comes to me to bring me my cap, that I left
unattended at the bar. Honesty first, even in Adi Quala. .
Road to Ciuf Ciufit passing Hansu
and Afworki's house - Keren Eritrea.
Small grocery shop - Keren Eritrea.
Painting of the shrine of
Mariam Dearit in the Senhit Hotel - Keren Eritrea.
New Sarina Hotel on the road to
Asmara - Keren Eritrea.
Small scale trade (peanuts
or "foul") on the bus
station - Keren Eritrea.
Information on aids prevention -
Adi Quala Eritrea.
Suwa bar - Adi Quala Eritrea.
Public hall - Adi Quala
Small boy with iron wire toy - Adi
Local kids making music in
the evening - Adi Quala Eritrea.