Assab Eritrea - May 26th 2004
The instruction was to be at the
airport at 6:00. So I have set the alarm clock at 5:00 to have one hour to wash,
dress and walk the three kilometers to the airport. As usual I dissolve an
effervescent tablet containing 100% of the daily ration of vitamins as a
When I arrive at the airport,
it appears I am the only one in time. The actual check in time is between
6:30 and 7:00. There is some confusion about the airport tax. Is it 15 Nakfa or 15 dollars? I pay 15 dollars, but receive a receipt for 15 Nakfa.
I judge this is not correct and after 15 minutes one of the officials
comes to me to return my 15 dollar in exchange for 15 Nakfa, as on the
receipt. The authorities at the airport make sure I have a permit to make
the trip to Assab
We will fly with an 18 seater
of Chinese origin. When the doors close I do not feel at ease. And when
one of the pilots starts the engines and the window next to me starts
vibrating, I wonder if it was a good idea to make the trip by plane. The
first part of the flight will be over the mountains. No chance to land if
there is something wrong with the plane. When we have reached the Dankalia
Desert, I am at ease. Pushing my shoulder against the window eliminated
the vibration of the lose panel.
Breakfast is served: two
sandwiches and a bottle of Coke or Fanta. The sandwich is not very fresh.
After eating one of them, I have enough. The flight time is one hour and
50 minutes. At the airport if Assab the passengers have to be registered
and again I have to show my permit.
Tekie, Feshayes brother is
waiting for me with his taxi. I ask him to bring me to the Kebal
International Hotel. We have to pass another two checkpoints. The hotel
looks very modern and luxurious from the outside, but the interior looks
like a labyrinth and the interior does not meet the expectations. Why is
it that I have always bad luck with the door locks?
Tekie organizes a short sight
seeing through Assab and brings my another unexpected surprise: It will be
difficult to get a bus to make the trip back to Asmara. There is some
technical problems with one bus, and there is a lot of passengers, because
a lot of people are leaving Assab after the elections and after the
celebrations. This might even mean that I will be struck in Assab for two
weeks. And the plane to Amsterdam is leaving one week from now.
I ask Tekie to do his best to
get me a ticket for the bus. First priority is finding a way to get back
in time, so I just start walking, hoping a miracle will happen. Not
knowing the directions, I decide to follow a group of soldiers. Used to
the various checks last year, I think it is safer to stay with them, than
trying to avoid them. It will also discourage beggars. I end up at a large
office. When I read the sign at the entrance, I regret my decision to
follow them, "Assab, Naval Base" (and no ships in sight).
I make a wise decision and walk in the opposite direction.
When I return to the hotel I
observe some activity in and around a bus parked in a small alley. I ask
the two men in the bus if one of them is the driver. I explain my problem.
The men reply that they are willing to take me to Massawa the day after
tomorrow, but I have to sit on an oil can, next to the driver (for 700
kilometers!). Of course I except the offer, and I promise the driver
another 100 Nakfa, if he can drop me in Massawa. I do not hesitate one
second to buy my ticket. Uncomfortable or not, I have to get back to
My mood changes 100%. It is
hot, it is dusty, I am thirsty and tired, but I am so happy! I will walk
the rest of the day through Assab. Very slow, and taking a break every 30
minutes to have a drink. When I need some rest, a soldier offers me a seat
in one of the check posts. I can even have some water from his bottle if I am thirsty. I cannot
believe it! I regard sharing precious water as a sign of true hospitality
in this very hot area, so I accept his offer, sitting in the shade of the
small shelter. Like I did in Keren, I take a random taxi for one Nakfa,
and another to return, so I will see several parts of town, without
getting to tired.
After sunset, I wait in the
hotel for Tekie. He promised to bring me to the beach party tonight. Tekie
is exactly in time at 8:00 we leave to the beach with his two daughters,
Hannah and Selamawit.
We drink ice cold Coca Cola, listen to the speeches, prize-giving's
and music. It is to hot to dance.
At 22:00 we return to the
hotel. I will set the alarm at 4:00, just to test it for Friday, afraid I
will miss the bus. With the noice of the airco and the fan it is difficult
to sleep. But in this heat, even at night, I will need them.
Main street - Assab Eritrea.
Shop - Assab Eritrea.
Bar and restaurant - Assab Eritrea.
Decorations on the occasion of
13th Independence Day - Assab Eritrea.
Saint Michael Coptic Church -
"Virginity is healthy".
Warning against aids - Assab Eritrea.
Shanty town - Assab Eritrea.
Small grocery shop - Assab Eritrea.
Martyrs Square - Assab Eritrea.
Celebrating Eritrea's 13th
independence day on the beach of Assab.