Amsterdam - Asmara Eritrea - May 13th 2004
The take off of the Eritrean
Airlines plane is delayed
by one hour. We have to wait for 20 missing passengers, expected to transfer
from a flight from the USA that is delayed. Most of the passengers are Eritreans
from Europe, some tourists and a few Italians that will accompany us to the
stopover at Milan Malpensa.
The staff of the Eritrean
Airlines plane gives you a feel of being in Eritrea from the moment you
have boarded the plane. Typical Eritrean friendliness, politeness and
hospitality. I recognize some of them from the previous flights last year.
"Thank you for the photo's". They all are proud of their airline, that has just celebrated its first anniversary. No problem to
make some pictures. At the airport in Milan I explain my plans in Eritrea
to captain Isaias. I ask if I can
visit his cockpit later, when flying to Asmara.
During the flight to Eritrea,
the flight attendants sell tax free whisky. Last chance to buy a gift for
my host, Feshaye, who will be waiting for me at Asmara International
Airport. My visit to captain Isaias'
and flight officer Jonathans' cockpit is like meeting friends. We talk
about our families and about Eritrea.
When we have touched the
runway in Asmara, there is an enthusiast applause. Women make typical
Eritrean sounds expressing joy. We are home, and so am I, longing to meet
all friends, to enjoy the sun, the smiles, and unfolding my plans for the
next three weeks.
Walking from the plane to the
airport buildings, I witness the Eritrean passengers photographing the
plane. It is not allowed to make pictures at the airport, but who cares?
It is dark. Nothing special to see except the plane. So I join them.
Check, check, double check.
Polite, but accurate. I hand the entry form received and written in the
plane to the Eritrean military police. At the next counter, I fill in a form to
declare the video equipment. The procedures are very familiar to me.
I get myself one of the luggage
carts and wait patiently for the suitcases. The luggage belt is short. Too
short for the many packages and suitcases. The porter tears the largest
ones from the belt to prevent congestion. When I have collected my
luggage, I follow the instructions of the airport personnel, who direct
the foreigners to the exit. Everything is well organized. And everyone is
friendly. "Welcome to Eritrea, sir!"
At the fence of the airport
compound Feshaye is awaiting me with the company car, a Toyota Hilux
double cab. Hundreds of Eritreans are waiting to meet their friends and
relatives that arrived. Taxi's are waiting for those who might need them.
I hand the bag with the Johnny
Walker to Feshaye. "It's yours now, so be careful with it". I
shake hands with Hiab, the four year old son of Feshaye and Terhas. He is
shy. It will take a few hours to get used to me again. After dropping my luggage in
the apartment, two kilometers from the airport, we visit Pizzeria
Eritrea, where Terhas invites me to eat one of her delicious pizza's as a
Flight attendant Salem
demonstrating the life vests.
Flight attendant Eden
serving coffee on the flight to Asmara.
Captain Isaias in the cockpit of
the Eritrean Airlines Boeing 767.
Senior flight attendant Shewaye
serving drinks on the flight to Asmara.
Flight attendant Solomon serving
drinks on the flight to Asmara.
The Eritrean Airlines Boeing 767
at Asmara International Airport.
Terhas and her two children, Hiab
Elilta, studying the
inflated beach ball (thank you Leny van Galen).
Tsege and Ghenet, taking care of
Terhas children and me.
singing and playing on