Mendefera Eritrea - October
I planned to visit Himbirti, a
small village 50 kilometers from Asmara, today. I do not know the village,
but it is on my map, looks close enough for a one day trip and it would be
a new experience. At the bus station there is no bus to Himbirti. It is
Sunday, so there is only a few buses available. I am directed to a group
of people, waiting for the bus to arrive. I ask them about the chances of
finding a bus for the return trip. I should return to Asmara before 15:00.
When the bus does not appear after half an hour waiting, I decide to
change my plan. I do not want to be stuck in a place I do not know without
So I follow the lure
"Mendefera, Mendefera" on the other side of the bus station.
This Eritrean village is familiar to me and there is a very good hotel.
Just in case. The bus is a brand new Mitsubishi mini bus for 36
passengers. The Eritrean government imported a few hundred of these buses to replace the older and less reliable
As a tourist I usually forget
to mention and picture these typical examples of well-considered
investments of the Eritrean government. Millions of Nakfa's are spend to
improve infrastructure such as safe and widened roads and efficient, safe and
modern transport, shortening the travel time of both goods and people. But
tourists usually admire the old, the traditional and picturesque images of
On our one hour drive to
Mendefera we pass the mining area of Debarwa, a village I visited four
months ago. I recognize the house of Alem and Kesete. I have to go back
one time, to surprise them. We pass the churches on top of the hills. From
the bus they look even higher than I experienced them in May, when I was climbing these hills.
In Mendefera I just missed a
cycling race through the village. Children are gathered around their
favorite sportsmen. Bars are crowded with thirsty spectators. I follow the
long main road through Mendefera and than turn to the left to walk through
the smaller streets, where children are playing football or use worn out
car tires as toys.
Slowly climbing uphill I
recognize St. Geoghis Coptic Church, one of Mendefera's landmarks. What I
didn't realize is the fact that there is a military camp just behind it.
The friendly, but strict guard points his hand to the left. I understand,
no trespassing. After a short detour, cI cross the main street to explore the other side of the
The only thing special here is
the snow white mosque. When I come close to it, I notice there is a small
shop under it. Two Muslim man are chatting there with the shopkeeper. I
ask him if he has chilled Coca Cola. Using the marble stairs of the shops
entrance as a seat, I have some rest, drinking my coke.
On my way to the bus station
two boys on a cart, pulled by a donkey, ask me if I want to have a lift. I
except the invitation, just for the fun and to have a good reason to give
them ten Nakfa for their entrepreneurship. When we reach the bus station I
tell them to stop, "hansap, hansap" (wait for a moment), A few
words I picked up in the Asmara buses.
Girls are roasting and selling
maize cobs, sitting on the side walk near the bus station. I buy two of then
and, sitting on a large stone, I eat them and wait for a chance to picture
the girls. I feel a bit guilty, but they are part of my fond memories of
Eritrea, so I have to picture them, to complete the story about my visit
When I think I have seen it
all, I take the bus back to Asmara and I have diner in Hamasien restaurant
located in one of the side streets of Harnet Avenue. The Tigrinya proverb
says "He who eats alone, will die alone". So I leave the change
to the first one I find in need, usually old women sitting on the
sidewalk, waiting for charity.
Old timer bus to one of the
smaller villages - Asmara Eritrea.
Town circle - Mendefera Eritrea.
Pension Eritrea - Mendefera.
Regional administration -
Mosque - Mendefera Eritrea.
Local children - Mendefera
Traditional houses -
Roasting maize cobs - Mendefera Eritrea.
Bus station - Mendefera
Hamasien restaurant - Asmara Eritrea.