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July and August 2006
Festival Eritrea 2006
 

 

Asmara Eritrea - July 26th 2006

 

After a visit to my wife's family, and a one-hour walk through Sembel, I visit the P.J.D.F. (Eritrea's ruling party) office, in an attempt to get more information about the program of this year's Festival Eritrea. A friendly girl makes some telephone calls to members of the committee responsible for the festival.

There is no written program available for the visitors of the festival. I am free to go in, just like anyone else. Later on I would learn that the program is basically the same every day. If you are in the Expo at 9:00 you will not miss the daily specials, if you are on the right place, at the right time. And if you are not on the right place at the specific time, the show often will repeat itself on one of next days.

My visits to families, to bring some letters from Holland to specific addresses in Asmara are not very spectacular. But the walks always result in unexpected surprises, passing the beautiful architecture inherited from the Italian colonial past, and meeting new people. And always there is the same heart-warming hospitality, a social adventure and a nice way to get acquainted to Eritrea's friendly culture.

The houses of Sembel are modest, rows of one story concrete blocks, painted in a vanilla color. Some decorated with abstract elements like green or red crosses, flowers or a bird. Square windows without glass are protected by blue iron structures and shutters.  An asphalted main street, and alleys of rough mountain soil on both sides, following the slope of the mountain.

Children want me to buy and eat their cactus fruits. The beles season started a month ago. The children harvest the kiwi shaped fruits with a tin can on the end of a stick, and sell them for 50 cents or a Nakfa. With a sharp knife they open the fruit's skin, so I can take it out and eat it. The beles tastes good and should be considered as safe to eat, even for tourists. Because of its laxative side-effect I eat only two fruits.

I spent the afternoon in Abbashaul, a district where both the houses and the streets are shabby. Challenging another social adventure: rich tourist in a poor neighborhood. I walk the rough alleys for some hours. People are curious what this tourist is doing in their district, and want to know my nationality

And if someone is making trouble, because he is drunk, or completely mad, there is always a majority of people to set you free and guarantee your safety. They will make sure that whoever is troubling you will be strictly "corrected".

When it starts to rain, I fly into a random workshop. Two boys working here offer me a chair, so I can rest while waiting until the sun comes back. They continue with their work, which is trying to repair a radio.

Abbashaul is known for its Suwa bars. Women are roasting large pancakes, the basic ingredient for this local beer. Some of the women invite me to try the product. But since it is made of unboiled local water, I will refuse it, having leant my lesson during my last visit to Eritrea. The wedding's suwa caused some very unpleasant health problems.

  

Orthodox Church - Sembel Asmara Eritrea.

Orthodox Church - Sembel Asmara Eritrea.

Children selling beles (cactus fruits) - Sembel Asmara Eritrea.

Children selling beles (cactus fruits) - Sembel Asmara Eritrea.

Houses build on mountain slopes - Sembel Asmara Eritrea.

Houses build on mountain slopes - Sembel Asmara Eritrea.

Regional Court - Ertrawit Ade Asmara Eritrea.

Regional Court - Ertrawit Ade Asmara Eritrea.

Public library - Asmara Eritrea.

Public library - Asmara Eritrea.

Ceramics factory - Gheza Banda Asmara Eritrea.

Ceramics factory - Gheza Banda Asmara Eritrea.

Apartments - Gheza Banda Asmara Eritrea.

Apartments - Gheza Banda Asmara Eritrea.

Picture us - Abbashaul Asmara Eritrea.

"Picture us" - Abbashaul Asmara Eritrea.

Local bar - Abbashaul Asmara Eritrea.

Local bar - Abbashaul Asmara Eritrea.

Suwa bar - Abbashaul Asmara Eritrea.

Suwa bar - Abbashaul Asmara Eritrea.

 

 
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