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Touring through Eritrea
November and December 2006
 
Asmara and surroundings
November and December 2006
 

 

From Mai Nefhi to Zawl - December 8th 2006

 

At 7:00 I have an early bus from Cinema Roma to Godaif. Behind the fuel station many mini buses are waiting for their passengers to the Mai Nefhi Technical Institute. Just to be sure I ask the directions to Zawl in the teachers room of the technical school. "After a kilometer or so you will see a road on your left. You will recognize it, because many students will use it to come to school on their bike".

I follow the road for about four kilometers. The landscape changes and I pass a river that runs through a deep cleft, and pools of water where the cattle finds its drinking water. A few kilometers further I walk into a village called Adi Kelkelti. I guess the village is never visited by tourist, because the whole village is coming out of their houses, thinking I am lost or something.

Adi Kelkelti is so small that a sightseeing takes no more than 15 minutes. Just a few houses on a plateau between the mountains, surrounded by field of maize and barley. The children follow me crying "money, money!". I ask them where I can find the money. None of them can answer my question. I ask the people the directions to Zawl and proceed my walk.

At 10:00 I am in Zawl. I pass the graveyard and its church that is opposite to the school. When I want to picture the church the children all pose in front of it. I will have to wait until the school starts. One of the teachers comes out to greet me. He introduces himself as Bereket, and invites me to drink tea in his house. He introduces me to his wife and two little daughters. We walk through the village for about 15 minutes, and he shows me the source of the Mai Leham water factory.

After the short guided tour through Zawl he leaves me on the edge of the village. "If you go in that directions, your walk to Mai Nefhi will be shorter." Unfortunately, the shortcut to Mai Nefhi is not a road, but one should follow a track, and since there is many tracks, I am lost very soon.  I try to fix the position of my own shadow, so I will walk approximately in the right direction, and l follow the tracks of cars, hoping one will pass.

After some time I see an old man. "Mai Nefhi?" I ask him. Although I cannot speak with him, I understand he is walking in the direction of Mai Nefhi. If I follow him, I will at least end up in some kind of village, I think. After some time the track is rough and going uphill. Something like the hike to Bizen, but the "path" is nothing more than the slope of the hill.

The scenery is magnificent, but I have little time to enjoy it. Very soon I am completely exhausted. Fortunately I brought a small rucksack with a large bottle of water. The old man looks a bit worried. He offers me his walking stick and offers to carry my rucksack. With my last energy I climb the hill, taking some rest every once and a while. The old man waits patiently, while I sit on a stone gasping for breath (the air is a little thin at 2400 meters).

Finally we reach the top and the landscape changes into a plateau. Green with many low trees, grass and bushes. From now on the hike is relatively easy and after walking a few kilometers over the plateau, the path forks to Mai Nefhi and Himbirti. From here I can see the technical school. I thank the old man a thousand times. He will continue to his village, in the direction of Himbirti. We exchange rucksack and walking stick.

  • "We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Eritrea at this time due to the dangerous security situation and high threat of terrorist attack against Western interests."
  • "If you do decide to travel to Eritrea, you should exercise extreme caution."  

These are some of the fist lines of the travel advice given by the Australian government. The words suggest that Eritrea is a very dangerous place to be. On my walks to Mai Habar and Zawl, I did not meet one problem with the local population. Only friendliness, politeness and help in case of trouble (as a result of my own lack of carefulness). In Mai Habar the people offered my food and a place to sleep. Today the old man offered me his walking stick, his assistance and his patience.

I guess the travel advice quoted above is a general statement resulting from the fact that a growing percentage of the worlds population likes to shoot at US citizens, just because they are from the US. I guess the real danger isn't the terrorists, but the fact you are an American (or look like one). Dirty US foreign policy preceded the changing attitude towards Western interests.

But this is not the case not in Eritrea. In 2006 I must have walked some 100 kilometers from village to village, alone,  without meeting the slightest problem with the local population. No crime, no harassment. Eritrea is a country that might serve as a good example of social tidiness for the rest of the world.

  

River - road to Zawl.

River - road to Zawl.

Landscape - road to Zawl

Landscape - road to Zawl

Hidmo (traditional dwelling) - Adi Kulkulti Eritrea.

Hidmo (traditional dwelling) - Adi Kulkulti Eritrea.

Landscape - road to Zawl

Landscape - road to Zawl

Landscape - road to Zawl

Landscape - road to Zawl

Orthodox Church - Zawl Eritrea.

Orthodox Church - Zawl Eritrea.

Donkey carrying water from the river to the village - Zawl Eritrea.

Donkey carrying water from the river to the village - Zawl Eritrea.

Source of the Mai Leham water factory - Zawl Eritrea.

Source of the Mai Leham water factory - Zawl Eritrea.

Shortcut to Mai Nefhi.

Shortcut to Mai Nefhi.

Shortcut to Mai Nefhi.

Shortcut to Mai Nefhi.

Pyramid Buffet Restaurant (next to Red Sea Buiulding) - Asmara Eritrea.

Pyramid Buffet Restaurant (next to Red Sea Buiulding) - Asmara Eritrea.

 

 
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