Asmara Eritrea - May 24th 2004
May 24th is the national holiday in
Eritrea and the main ceremonies will take place this afternoon, so I choose to
spend the morning in the Asmara Zoo. It is not a spectacular place to be, but it
is in the center a a forest, so you can make a nice walk, enjoying mother
nature, the sun and a drink and a snack at the bar.
In the Zoo, boys are trying to
earn a few Nakfa's by offering themselves as a guide and attracting the
animals attention, so I can picture them. I do not need a guide, so I
ignore them. I walk the surroundings of the Zoo, in a slow pace. It is
extremely hot today.
In the afternoon I take the
bus number one to Sembel to charge all batteries of the video for the show
that will take place in the stadium. In the supermarket I buy a large
bottle of mineral water and something to eat and share with others.
The taxi is stopped by the
military a few hundred meters from the stadium. From there I have to walk,
passing a checkpoint every 200 meters. Check, check, double check. I have
to show the content of my bags three times. president Isaias Afwerki, high
ranking government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and various
foreign guest will attend the ceremonies, so there is a good reason for
these extra safety measures.
Unfortunately I am directed to
the sunny side of the stadium. It will not be easy to make high quality
video or pictures. And I forgot to take something to protect my arms from
the sunlight. I hide one hand under the program and try to hide the other
behind my neighbors back.
My neighbor leaves, and after
ten minutes he returns with two bottles of coca cola. One for him, one for
me! I share the chewing gum I bought in the shop with all visitors around
me. The man sitting behind me offers me his jacket to hide for the sun. Eritrean people are very sensitive to the needs of
others, even (or especial?) if you are a tourist. Waiting is a lot easier like this. Helicopters pulling banners fly over
the stadium. And the Eritrean Air Force shows four of its fighter planes.
It is like last year, the
National Military Marching Band, a parade of all kind of military, Navy,
Air Force, Army, Police as well as Yikaalo troops and Warsai soldiers.
Then there is speeches of officials and the president. He describes the
Eritrean economy, its goals and difficulties it is facing: The recent war,
irregular water supply and ineffective farming methods. Agricultural
development has first priority.
Second part of his speech is
devoted to the "Woyanes": "The TPLF regime is busy in its
attempts to run away from agreements it has signed and thus trample on the
Boundary Commissions' rulings, fabricating 'new mechanisms' to plunge the
peace process into complications and endless cycle of obstructions".
The speech is followed by
musical drama, singing and dancing. Singers of all nine ethnic groups give
a cultural show. 1,800 students from elementary. junior and secondary
school levels, dressed in the colors of the Eritrean flag, stage two
musical drama's and aerobics.
I am free to move on this side
of the stadium, so I choose a better spot to make some pictures of the
show. The celebration is concluded singing and playing the Eritrean
When I leave the stadium to go
back home, I run into Kibreab, brother of Saba, Mebrats' girl friend.
Fortunately he recognizes me, because the present of his sister is still
waiting for him, because I was not able to find him until now. We walk to
the house of Mebrat's sister, where I left the package, sure it would be
easy to pick up there if necessary. Kibreab invites me to drink some beer
with him. I invite him to Terhas' Pizzeria Eritrea to try one of her
Ostrich in the Asmara zoo - Amara Eritrea.
British war cemetery - Asmara Eritrea.
University of Asmara - Asmara Eritrea.
Part of the front cover of
the program book distributed at the
celebrations of 13th Independence Day in Asmara Stadium.
Eritrean Air Force fighter planes
flying over the Asmara Stadium.
The National Military Marching
Band playing in Asmara Stadium.
Eritrean Navy parading at
the celebrations in Asmara Stadium.
Hundreds of students dancing
at the celebrations in Asmara Stadium.
Singing the national anthem
at the celebrations in Asmara Stadium.
Eating a pizza with Kibreab
in Pizzeria Eritrea - Asmara Eritrea.