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September - October 2004
One Heart
 
 

Asmara -  Eritrea - October 4th 2004

 

In the morning I visit Kibreab in his office. I will take some cargo back to Rotterdam for his sister. We drink tea with his colleagues. By now they are used to me and they want me to take their pictures as well. Kibreab is well educated. He is working with computers, updating and maintaining the network of his firm. From Asmara up to Tessenei. "If there is a problem they will call me, and I will go there if necessary." Kibreab also knows a lot about Eritrean red tape and helps me to do some paperwork.

In the Mask Place I have a drink before visiting Tedros in his travel agency. Tedros is not in. I should have known. He must be occupied with Peter Patt and his rail fans. Next stop is Meaza in her tourist information office. "When will you be back?" I tell her I hope to celebrate 14th Independence Day with her, here in Asmara.

Back on the street a man comes to me and asks: "Do you remember me?" Unfortunately, I have some trouble recognizing people, meeting so many new people every day. "I was the camera man at the ETSA workshops". Amanuel has seen me all over the city taking pictures, and he is interested in my involvement with tourism. I tell him about my wife and about the Eritrean information pages.

"I can show you another nice place, lets have a drink!" He guides me to a restaurant in one of the side streets of  Harnet Avenue. Hawashait Pizza Restaurant is a lovely place, decorated with many examples of Eritrean handicraft. Amanuel explains: "The basket over there is used to make butter and buttermilk. The picture of the man over there is our president Isaias Afwerki, when he was young the leader of our liberation army, the EPLF."

Amanuel tells me that he was expelled from Ethiopia some five years ago. "My parents are both Eritrean by birth, so we were send away. We had to leave everything behind. Thousands of us had to return to Eritrea. And we had to return in a manner that hurt us the most, through areas that everyone knew that was mine fields. We were scared, but we had no choice. Turning back would have resulted in being killed by Ethiopian bullets. They humiliated us, and they enjoyed it".

I ask him to compare Ethiopia with Eritrea. "Ethiopia is a nation of beggars, Eritrea is a nation of workers." He explains that the Ethiopian economy would collapse instantly if foreign aid would stop. "It is foreign aid that keeps their population alive, so they have revalued begging to a skill. From the streets of Addis Ababa up to their representations abroad."

I take a chair at one of the tables in front of the Impero bar, admiring one of waitresses with her beautiful plaited hair. When I ask her if it is ok to picture her, the answer is no. The men at the table next to me suggests I should just picture her, without asking. I tell him the picture will be no good if she doesn't pose for a few seconds. I am using a digital camera.

Suddenly a man flops down on the chair next to me. "He, give me a coke!" He is nuts, in Tigrinya "zulul". I point the camera at him, hoping it will make him leave. He takes a pose, waiting until I am finished with the picture. Than he is gone, probably looking for another tourist that will give him a coke.

Walking through one of the side streets I pass a beautiful decorated coffee shop and grindery. I am invited in by Elsa, the owner and make some pictures. Of course I have to drink some coffee. She asks me the usual questions. About my family, if I have children with Mebrat and where they are living.

When I pass Bar Selas, Freweini is standing in the door opening, inviting me to come in. It is to early for beer, but I accept her invitation, and drink a coke. "You like dark drinks!", she says, referring to my preference for Asmara dark beer. "And I like dark women as well!", I reply to her, pointing my camera at her. She hides behind the curtains of the bar, watching a few times if the camera is gone. But she cannot hide all day. 

When I leave the bar, my attention is drawn to a painting on the back of a Volkswagen. When I picture it, the owner comes to me and explains the meaning of the feasting trio. "It is promotion of a liquor factory", he answers. I ask him the meaning of the Tigrinya text. "It is the words of a Tigrinya song", he replies.

I spent another hour on the streets, trying to catch the smaller details of Asmara trucks with landscapes painted on their flaps, the parks adorned with flowers, the souvenir market. The stalls offer almost nothing new compared to May 2004. I buy a small basket of red lace, decorated with red sea shells. I will use it as a container for the holy ground of Mariam Dearit, the gift for Deborah.

Then it is time for some beers in Bar Selas. I do not have to ask. Freweini knows! She wants to see today's pictures. When I have shown them all, I remind her to the fact that I miss just one: her picture. The answer is still no. When I have had my beers and plan to leave, Freweini hastens to pull the beer labels from the bottles. She must have been observing my habit for some days!

 

Miriam, restaurant The Mask Place - Asmara Eritrea.

Miriam, restaurant The Mask Place - Asmara Eritrea.

Shoe shiners - Asmara Eritrea.

Shoe shiners - Asmara Eritrea.

Harnet Avenue - Asmara Eritrea.

Harnet Avenue - Asmara Eritrea.

Khartoum Hotel - Asmara Eritrea.

Khartoum Hotel - Asmara Eritrea.

Bicycle repair shop - Asmara Eritrea.

Bicycle repair shop - Asmara Eritrea.

Wider streets have a name, the smaller are just numbered - Asmara Eritrea.

Wider streets have a name, the smaller are just numbered - Asmara Eritrea.

Nicely decorated Pizza restaurant - Asmara Eritrea.

Nicely decorated Hawashait Pizza restaurant - Asmara Eritrea.

'Zulul' (mad man) - Asmara Eritrea.

'Zulul' (mad man) - Asmara Eritrea.

Decorated coffee shop - Asmara Eritrea.  

Central market roasting and grinding coffee shop - Elsa G/Yesus
Adi Ibrahim Street 36/38 P.o. box 6625 Asmara Eritrea.

Promotion of a liquor factory - Asmara Eritrea.

Promotion of a liquor factory - Asmara Eritrea.

 

 
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