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May 2005 - Celebrating the
14th anniversary of Eritrea
 

 

Senafe Eritrea - June 2nd 2005

 

At 5:30 I silently slip out of the house. When I arrive at the bus station 30 minutes later, the bus to Senafe just left. Sometimes taking a taxi saves a lot of time. The next bus is waiting, but it takes more than two hours to get all seats occupied.

A polite youngster introduces himself as Said. He tells me his parents are from Senafe, and invites me to drink tea in restaurant on the bus station. We eat some bread as well.

The bus is slow, there are many checks, including the UN check when we enter the TSZ. There is tea breaks and quarrels about who can join the bus and who has to wait. The policy is "one passenger out, one passenger in", so all the seats remain occupied, but the many people waiting at the bus stops don't agree, and desperately try to board the bus.

It is 14:00 when we arrive in Senafe. I ask Said, who told me he is in the military now, and only earns 150 Nakfa (12,5 dollars) a month, if he has some time left to be my guide for the rest of the afternoon, to show me Senafe and its surroundings.

Said asks some friend what would be the best hotel. It must be either the Star Hotel or the Senafe Hotel. The brand new Star Hotel does not have any rooms vacant. I guess it is the best hotel in town, but the Senafe hotel isn't worse. Actually I am surprised that I only have to pay 30 Nakfa for the night, while there is nothing wrong with the room or the bed. 

We walk along Senafe's main road to Metera and the Senafe oak tree. When we hear a weird sound, Said points to one of the huge stone outcrops. The hole in one of them is called "the eye of Senafe". Although it looks small on the photo below, it is large enough for a group to sit in, if you have the energy to climb to the top. The wind, blowing through the hole turns the rock into a giant instrument.

Next stop is the Senafe oak tree, with its twelve branches bearing fruits each month of the year. The twelve branches are carrying signs in Tigrinya that refer to the twelve months.

Close to the Senafe oak tree is a historical site called Metera with ruins of an Aksumite town. I find it remarkable that there is so few Eritreans realizing the importance of these kind of sites. Why look at ruins when there is modern housing and constructions to show to the world? Said will go to the house of his parents. I give him 50 Nakfa

Back in the hotel I meet Terhas. She does not speak any English, but I understand she wants to drink a beer with me. I order two beers, to do her a favor and we make pictures. I should not have done that. From the manager of the hotel, I understand that she is introducing herself as my girlfriend.

I ask one of the men to tell her that my (Eritrean) wife will not allow me to bring her back to Holland as a souvenir. She is disappointed, but she understands. Drink another beer? Better not! I decide to roam the streets of Senafe before it is getting to dark.

At the bus station I buy a ticket for the tomorrow morning bus, to prevent transport problems. They understand. They instruct me to be here at 5:00. If I am to late, the ticket will not be valid for another bus. I get seat no 1, business class Eritrean style, a one seater front seat, next to the driver with plenty of personal space.

 I ask the driver about the quarrels around the bus. Her explains he had to unload cargo, and people we disturbing trying to get on the bus. The drivers asks me what I think of the bus. I tell him the truth. It is one of the worsest buses I have ever seen. He agrees. He will drive it until it collapses. I hope it will survive my return trip.

 Kids are following my, while walking through Senafe. They wants biscuits, money, or a picture. I guess they are spoiled by the UNMEE military. One of them offers to be my guide. He will show me the mountains. He guides me through some very narrow streets. I feel ashamed to enter the private space of these local people, but nobody seems to care. We walk through field of AloŽ Vera, until we are at the feet of the rock formations.

When it gets dark I return to the Senafe Hotel. A man wants to wash my car. I came by bus and do not have a car. He wants some money to eat. I ask Ruth, the manager of the hotel, what I can give him, so he can order a meal. Ten Nakfa will be enough. I give him a 10 Nakfa note, if I can take his picture. I need souvenirs, he needs his meal.

I drink beers with Abraha and Bikile. Abraha tells me all his brothers and sisters live in Europe. He lives with his parents in Senafe. No wife. When I ask him why he did not find a wife, he tells me he is the victim of Ethiopian revenge. An Ethiopian soldier castrated him, cut his testicles, because he did not give the correct answers, condemning him to be without offspring.

Abraha, Bikile, Terhas, they all have the same problem: Ethiopia, that is sabotaging the peace process, hoping these Eritreans will once prefer to be Ethiopians in peace, over Eritreans under Ethiopian oppression. Bikile is more the drinking type. He only speaks Tigrinya and Italian, which makes it impossible to start a conversation.

Abraha tells me about the once largest and famous Bisrat Hotel. Now a ruin, molested, plundered and set to fire by Ethiopian troops that shortly occupied the town, because of 'lack of cooperation' . Many of the houses and offices have been rebuilt since. "We will rebuild what Woyane is destroying. Again, and again and again".

A young boy is selling boiled eggs for two Nakfa each. I buy five eggs. Two for Abraha, two for Bikile, one for myself. But they do not agree. "One for us, three for you". I call the boy and ask him for another egg. Now it is 2 / 2 / 2. I guess even Abraha and Bikile must be convinced that they cannot leave me with four eggs, while they only have one.

Many youngsters enter the bar of the Senafe Hotel, all drinking beer. I guess there must be some source of income in Senafe. There is some trade, Abraha explains. The Ethiopians are selling food that WFP is donating to Ethiopia.

  

Main street (road to Metera and Adigrat, Ethiopia) Senafe Eritrea.

Main street (road to Metera and Adigrat, Ethiopia) Senafe Eritrea.

Surroundings of the Senafe oak tree - Senafe Eritrea.

Surroundings of the Senafe oak tree - Senafe Eritrea.

Senafe oak tree with its 12 branches - Senafe Eritrea.

Senafe oak tree with its twelve branches, bearing fruits 
in twelve different months of the year - Senafe Eritrea.

Metera - Senafe's archeological site.

Metera - Senafe's archeological site.

Billboard warning for mines - Senafe Eritrea.

Billboard warning for mines - Senafe Eritrea.

Eye of Senafa, an opening in the mountain, large enough to sit in, producing weird sounds if the wind blows through this large hole.

Eye of Senafa, an opening in the mountain, large enough to sit in,
producing weird sounds if the wind blows through this large hole.

Star Hotel - Senafe Eritrea.

Star Hotel - Senafe Eritrea.

Terhas - Senafe Eritrea.

Terhas - Senafe Eritrea.

Mosque - Senafe Eritrea.

Mosque - Senafe Eritrea.

One of the large rock formations bordering Senafe Eritrea.

One of the large rock formations bordering Senafe Eritrea.

Senafe Hotel - Senafe Eritrea.

Senafe Hotel - Senafe Eritrea.

Mr. Romodan, car washer - Senafe Eritrea.

Mr. Romodan, car washer - Senafe Eritrea.

 

 
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