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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Surroundings of the Senafe
oak tree - Senafe Eritrea.
Senafe oak tree with its twelve
branches, bearing fruits
in twelve different months of the year - Senafe Eritrea.
Metera - Senafe's archeological
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.
Star Hotel - Senafe Eritrea.
Terhas - Senafe Eritrea.
Mosque - Senafe Eritrea.
One of the large rock
formations bordering Senafe Eritrea.
Senafe Hotel - Senafe Eritrea.
Mr. Romodan, car washer - Senafe Eritrea.