Asmara Eritrea - September 25th 2004
The program reads "7:00
Parade of old cars, Harnet Avenue Asmara". Optimistic as ever I am
there in time. Nothing to see, except the Asmara police. In the Damera bar
I have a donut and a cappuccino for breakfast, testing my camera on
the girls. They don't care. They know me by now.
Back on the meeting point, I
join the ETSA group. I receive a white "Eritrean Tourist Festival
27. September 2004" cap of one of the men. "After all, you are a
member of our organization now". At 9:00 twenty old-timers come to
live on Bahti Meskerem and mix with the usual traffic on the main street.
I follow the cars till they
reach the telecommunications office. From there I turn into on of the
side-streets, making my own program. Visiting family, bars, shops, an
internet cafe, trying to read my e-mail. I visit Photo Asmarina to collect
some pictures of the ETSA workshops.
I walk for hours, to see and
to be seen, waiting for the unexpected, just like the Asmarino's. Nothing
spectacular happens, but the tour is still
very pleasant. People always willing to help you, and asking "how are
you?", even though they do not know you.
Of course there is a lot of
people trying to earn some money, knowing you are carrying a lot of money
in your wallet. Taxi's, businessmen trying to change foreign
currency. Children selling small stuff, some beggars sitting in the shade,
reaching out their hand to you, hoping to get some change, or more.
After having my shoes cleaned
and brushed I take the bus to the Expo area. A man is giving a show with a
giant snake. He releases the animal in front of the spectators. The snake
ignores all the people and winds its body towards the monkey cage. The
animals panic. The people are laughing. The snake is catched before it
will molest the cage. One of the spectators, who happens to be the neighbor
of my wife's sister, suggests he will carry the snake around his neck, so
I can picture him.
I forgot my invitation, but by
now so many people know me, that this is not a problem at all. After the
speech of the Minister of tourism and the chairman of the ETSA, there
is a festive program after the diner. Certificates of participation and
appreciation are handed to those responsible for the organization and to
entrepreneurs in tourism facilities. There is cultural dance and fashion
shows, and the final competition of the Miss Tourism 2004 Contest.
At midnight Bereket
Mengesteab, Helen Meles and other Eritrean singers give a performance and
we dance until next morning on traditional Eritrean music and drink Asmara
beers. The dance floor fills with people. Security personal have to
protect Helen Meles, when to many fans are climbing the stage. I dance
with the other guests. Quite unlike our style of dancing, you do not need
a partner. You dance with the group, and the group will teach you the
typical movements of your shoulders, your feet, your arms.
The dance is easy to learn,
even for those who are not used to dance. movements are calm, delicate,
and in front of the opposite sex, sometimes challenging. But is not
individuals that dance, it is the interaction of the group that is
mesmerizing. It is THE chance to experience the warmth of the Eritrean
people, to exchange smiles and happiness. And they will sometimes honor
your courage to join them, sticking a Nakfa into your collar. A typical
Eritrean gesture meaning "We love your contribution to the
At 4:00 the party continues, but for me it is time to go home. I am
to tired to dance and enjoy myself any longer after today's long walks through the city.
At an altitude of 2.400
meters, and a clear sky, the Asmara air is chilly at night. I feel sorry
for the guards at the UNMEE headquarters, close to our apartment. A high
fence, two armed guards, an armoured car, dozens of enormous bags filled
with soil, to stop bombed vehicles. "Just standard African security
measures, and US neurosis" the guard explains.
Fiat old timer - Bahti Meskerem Square Asmara Eritrea.
Celebrating International Tourism
Day - Asmara Eritrea.
Parade of old timer cars - Harnet
Avenue Asmara Eritrea.
Breakdown of one of the old timers
- Harnet Avenue Asmara Eritrea.
Tamed snake - Expo area Asmara Eritrea.
Girl in traditional clothes - Expo
area Asmara Eritrea.
Traditional dance group -
ETSA cocktail dinner - Expo grounds Asmara.
Traditional dance group - ETSA
cocktail dinner - Expo grounds Asmara.
Fashion show - ETSA cocktail
dinner - Expo grounds Asmara.
Winners of the 2004 Miss
Tourism Contest - Expo grounds Asmara.
Bereket Mengesteab - ETSA
cocktail party - Expo grounds Asmara.
Helen Meles - ETSA
cocktail party - Expo grounds Asmara.