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July and August 2006
Festival Eritrea 2006
 

 

Asmara Eritrea - July 25th 2006

 

I wait for Gebrehiwot and his family to wake up, and make my program for today. To make sure to have all preparations for my sixteen days stay in Eritrea done on this first day, so I will have the rest of the time free for my agenda, not disturbed by any additional red tape. Before take off, and during the flight I did most of my homework for an efficient start.  Gabriela makes me tea with some hembesha. I hand a few gifts to the family members.

Welcome gifts are: the whisky from the tax free shop in Amsterdam, a torch with rechargeable batteries and a charger (power is down in Eritrea at night!), hundreds of Paracetamol tablets and pens, the pre paid telephone cards I will buy at Telecommunications that will be a useful gift for Luwam's mobile phone, and some small female stuff like eau de perfume and jewelry for Gabriela, the maid. Gebrehiwot's car is ill, so I will leave some money just before I return to Amsterdam (so he will not be able to either return it or refuse it).

With a carefully chosen selection of my luggage and paperwork, I walk to the bus stop. People want to help and ask me where I am going. Taxi's pass and slow down, hoping to get a good customer. But by now I know where to go to whatever what place for just one Nakfa, not afraid of some pushing to get in, and used to a crowded public bus.  

The first day in Eritrea is therefore - as usual - reserved for next week's agenda. What is the program of the Festival Eritrea in the Expo area? I cannot find the answer to this question in the Expo area itself. Everyone agrees on the fact that the festival will be from July 28 (official opening ceremony) up to August 10, but an agenda? For these kind of questions I have to visit the offices of the P.F.D.J., the ruling party in Eritrea, or the Ministry of Information.

Cultural groups from all over Eritrea are constructing and decorating there own traditional houses, made of wooden sticks, rope, mats and cloth. Stages and temporary restaurants are constructed and Eritrean Railways is testing its steam locomotive, which will make a short ride over the compound.

Second action with a high priority is getting a Travel Permit. You will need one for every trip outside Asmara, so in the office I quote every town that might be a destination in the next 15 days, including Massawa and Keren. The Tourism Service Center is not updated on the program of the Festival Eritrea 2006, so I have to visit the P.F.D.J. office.

The employees of the Tourism Service Center remind me of the option to do the tour through Semenawi Bahri, which is said to be the most beautiful countryside in Eritrea. Its evergreen forests extend along a chain of mountains with a dramatic snaking decent from 2.400 to 900 meters, passing Filfil valley and the Solomuna plantations. The bus trip will be along the recently opened new road through the region. The tour is organized by Harat Travel Agency.

(Later I would find out that Travel House International is also offering the tour through the Semenawi Bahri National Park. This very experienced travel agency is more tourist minded than the Harat Travel Agency, which is more transport minded).

Apart from the transport, you will need the travel permit and a ticket to enter the Semenawi Bahri region. Both the travel permit (20 Nakfa in 2006) and the entry ticket (75 Nakfa in 2006) are  available at the Ministry of Tourism Service Office in Harnet Avenue. The travel agencies can arrange the whole package, but you will need a permit to travel anyway, because it is obligatory to visit any city or village.

I visit the Eritrean Airlines office and Himbol Exchange for the confirmation of my return flight and Nakfa's, the Telecom office for telephone cards, and Saba's Mini Market for lots of potable water (you will need it anyway for medicine, Massawa and more), Asmara Zibib, the local strong alcoholic drink ("two araki's a day will scare the bacteria away") and some food, to be prepared for any unexpected invitation to make a trip outside Asmara.

At the main office of the Eritrean Orthodox Church I arrange a permit to visit the Debre Bizen Monastery for August 8, just after the Festival Eritrea 2006. Harat Travel Agency will organize a trip through Semenawi Bahri on August 4, to return from Massawa on August 5. There will be an overlap with the festival, but I am to late for this weekend's trip to the national park.

For July 27 and 28, I planned a 40 kilometers walking tour from Nefasit to Dekemhare in two days, but for personal reasons and the risk of lots of rain on route, I decide to cancel this expedition, and to explore Asmara instead. I don't want to spoil my health before the Festival Eritrea even has started.

  

Villa - Koken Street / Golj Street Tiravolo Asmara Eritrea.

Villa - Koken Street / Golj Street Tiravolo Asmara Eritrea.

Harhare bar and fast food restaurant - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.

Harhare bar and fast food restaurant - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.

Molober Night Club - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.

Molober Night Club - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.

Children playing in an old Dakota - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.

Children playing in an old Dakota - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.

Hidmo (traditional dwelling) - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.

Hidmo (traditional dwelling) - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.

Preparation of the steam engine - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.

Preparation of the steam engine - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.

Eritrean Railways contribution to the festival - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.

Eritrean Railways contribution to the festival - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.

Patriarchate (HQ) of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church - Warsay Street Asmara Eritrea.

Patriarchate (HQ) of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church
Warsay Street Asmara Eritrea.

Renovated Fiat Tagliero Service Station - Asmara Eritrea.

Renovated Fiat Tagliero Service Station - Asmara Eritrea.

Saba's Mini Market - Semaetat Avenue Asmara Eritrea.

Saba's Mini Market - Semaetat Avenue Asmara Eritrea.

 

 
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