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July and August 2006
Festival Eritrea 2006
 

 

Festival Eritrea - July 29th 2006

 

First day of the Festival Eritrea 2006 after yesterday's opening ceremony in Cinema Roma. At 9:00 I enter the Expo grounds. For twenty Nakfa I buy ten tickets for the duration of the festival, so there will be no need to queue up every day to get a ticket.

At the entrance some decorated camels are waiting for a (very short) ride for only ten Nakfa. Photographers are standing next to them, making pictures. I decide to take the chance. Three men help me to mount the camel. The camel is showing its anger about the heavy tourist. When I am in the seat on top of the camel, we walk a few steps. The camel is very restless and irritated, so I leave it with these few steps, and a picture of one the photographers.

A little girl, Hannah, offers me her services to guide me to the various attractions. I do not really need a guide, but since I came alone, and she may need some Nakfa's, I follow her for two hours.

We visit a zonal village and living pattern show, where replica's of houses and tents of all nine nationalities in Eritrea can be visited (and entered). The women inside explain what is exhibited in their small house. We watch the cultural groups in their beautiful clothes, who are dancing on traditional music. Each zoba (region) has its own performance ground, where regional dancers and singers give a continuous show.

The many small and larger temporary restaurants provide a variety of traditional Eritrean food and drinks, ranging from snacks or a piece of water-melon for one or two Nakfa, up to complete meals for 40 - 60 Nakfa.

In the recently renovated and newly constructed Expo exhibition halls and pavilions, the visitors can see examples of painting, sculpture, handicraft, industrial, agricultural and marine products, photography, industrial and housing projects, regional presentations of the six zoba's, and presentations of pupils of various schools on history, education, and science.

A historic steam train of the Eritrean Railway with three open carriages follows a temporary one mile track from the back to the entrance of the Expo grounds. For two times five Nakfa, Hannah and I make the short ride, tasting a glimpse of the Eritrean Railway that finished the reconstruction of the Asmara - Massawa connection only two years ago, and started (chartered) tour services for local and foreign tourists with historic steam and diesel trains.

In a children's playground students dressed as animals help to amuse the children. I leave Hannah in the playground with some Nakfa's, so I can visit the exhibition halls and spent more time on the items displayed (Hannah was a bit restless, trying to show me the whole exhibition in a few minutes).

President Isaias Afwerki officially opens the ten day Festival Eritrea 2006 by cutting a ribbon in front of the main exhibition hall. The president, ministers and other officials are welcomed by participating folkloric dancing groups of all nine ethnic groups of Eritrea, staging their respective cultural performances. The president and the group of high level government officials and others then visit the exhibition and the zonal village sites.

When I pass the pavilion of the National Blood Transfusion Center of Eritrea, one of the medics asks me if I am willing to give some of my blood. If I am to go up to Bizen, I will need all energy. What will be the consequences of giving blood for my health? The medic assures me the blood will be replaced by new blood in a few days.

I remember the banner in the tent when I celebrated Eritrea's 10th anniversary in 2001 "our country with our blood". Leaving some of my blood in Eritrea would result in a very special bond with the country, so I agree to donate blood.

The medic measures my weight, blood pressure and asks me some questions about my health. I sign for the answers, and a few minutes later my blood is tapped to a blood bag. Ten days from today I can call for the results of the tests they will do on my blood.

And to compensate for the blood, I am rewarded with a Coke and some biscuits, so I will not faint. The priceless reward is the feel that from now on I share something extra with the Eritreans: my blood.

Around 15:00 a show of cultural groups starts at one of the main stages near the zoba displays. Groups of all nationalities, in beautiful traditional clothes, and decorated with ornaments, give performances until it is dark.

In the early evening there is a folk dance performance of the Liaoning Art Troupe of China, a touring cultural exchange group, on the other main stage in front of the festival building. The all female 15-member troupe resembles a group of rubber dolls that can stretch and bend their bodies to any extend.

On several other stages there are shows of starting Eritrean artists. I have been told that at 22:00 there will be an overnight party in the Expo Hall with Helen Meles and several other famous Eritrean artists. I make a phone call to Gebrehiwot I will not return until 6:00 next morning.

When I enter the Expo Hall at 23:00 I am one of the first guests. The show starts after midnight with Kiros Asefah, Jelan Edris, Bekita Ali, Wedi Sheik and Kahsay Berhe.  And we have to wait until 2:30 to see, and hear, Helen Meles. The Eritreans love her. Four military men have to protect her from being hugged to death by the public.

I join the dancing people after drinking some Asmara beers to grease my muscles. A girl offers me a beer. "I like white men", she says, and starts to caress my leg. I politely explain that I am married to an Eritrean wife. And to further discourage her, I tell her that many people in this nightclub know both my wife and me.

At 5:00 the party is over. I walk back to the center of Asmara in the dark (power is down). I brought a flashlight to illuminate the street in front of me. The alternative is taking a taxi, but since I have no key to the house, and I do not want to disturb the family, I might just as well walk. I have to wait to get in anyway.

When I arrive at the house, I observe that the gate has not been locked. They kept it open for me. I slip in and have no problems to enter the house and find my bed, to sleep for a few hours.   

  

Entrance of the Expo grounds - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Asmara Eritrea.

Entrance of the Expo grounds - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Asmara Eritrea.

Tigre woman - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

Tigre woman and Fred Siwak's butterfly - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Asmara Expo

Dancing with the snakes - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

Dancing with the snakes - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

Hedareb woman - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Asmara Eritrea.

Hedareb woman - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Asmara Eritrea.

Dancing Tigrinya children - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

Dancing Tigrinya children - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

Dancing Tigrinya children - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

Dancing Tigrinya girl - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

Dancing Tigre women - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

Dancing Tigre women - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

Liaoning Art Troupe of China - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

Liaoning Art Troupe of China - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

Young Eritrean artists - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

Young Eritrean artists - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

Amine Tesfalidit - Expo Hall Asmara Eritrea.

Amine Tesfalidit - Expo Hall Asmara Eritrea.

Helen Meles - Expo Hall Asmara Eritrea.

Helen Meles - Expo Hall Asmara Eritrea.

(Tigre) Wedi Sheik - Expo Hall Asmara Eritrea.

(Tigre) Wedi Sheik - Expo Hall Asmara Eritrea.

Suzanne - Expo Hall Asmara Eritrea.

Suzanne - Expo Hall Asmara Eritrea.

 

 
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