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
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
Children selling beles
(cactus fruits) - Sembel Asmara Eritrea.
Houses build on mountain
slopes - Sembel Asmara Eritrea.
Regional Court - Ertrawit
Public library - Asmara
Ceramics factory - Gheza
Banda Asmara Eritrea.
Apartments - Gheza Banda Asmara
"Picture us" -
Abbashaul Asmara Eritrea.
Local bar - Abbashaul Asmara
Suwa bar - Abbashaul Asmara