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
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
(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
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
Harhare bar and fast food
restaurant - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.
Molober Night Club - Expo
grounds Asmara Eritrea.
Children playing in an old
Dakota - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.
Hidmo (traditional dwelling)
- Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.
Preparation of the steam
engine - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.
contribution to the festival - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.
Patriarchate (HQ) of the Eritrean
Orthodox Tewahdo Church
Warsay Street Asmara Eritrea.
Renovated Fiat Tagliero
Service Station -
Saba's Mini Market -
Semaetat Avenue Asmara Eritrea.