Asmara - Eritrea - October
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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.
Shoe shiners - Asmara Eritrea.
Harnet Avenue - Asmara Eritrea.
Khartoum Hotel - Asmara Eritrea.
Bicycle repair shop - Asmara Eritrea.
Wider streets have a name,
the smaller are just numbered - Asmara Eritrea.
Nicely decorated Hawashait Pizza
restaurant - Asmara Eritrea.
'Zulul' (mad man) - 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.