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May 2007 - Celebrating Eritrea's 16th Independence Day
 

 

Keren Eritrea - May 27th 2007

 

Yesterday I walked in the NW direction, today - Sunday - I choose the NE outskirts. I follow one of the streets that passes the many traditional houses in this part of Keren. Two older women and two children, all in beautiful dresses walk in front of me. Curious where they are going, I follow them on a distance. Suddenly they leave the main street, to descend to their house.

When I continue to follow the street, they ask me to follow them into their house. They just came from the church, where the children had a confirmation of their Baptism. The feast is celebrated with the family and they want me to be their guest. Like yesterday, the family makes sure that I have the best seat. We drink coffee and I am invited to eat with the men.

To my surprise they tell me that I have been their guest before, ten month ago when they were participating in the Zoba Anseba section of the Festival Eritrea 2006 in the Asmara Expo (Tigre national troupe). They remember me from this happy event, and ask if I will visit this years Festival. I would very much like to, but it is very uncertain that I get permission from my employer for a two weeks leave so soon after this holidays.

When I am on my way back to the center of Keren, I pass a small shop (Dukan) not far from the house of Afworki and Hansu. The shopkeeper and his sister ask me to come and sit with them. They offer me a chair and want to know where I come from. When I tell them I'm from Holland, the young woman replies: "I like Holland!" It is immediately clear to me that she is dreaming of future in the EU.

I ask her why she likes Holland. From her answer it is clear that she thinks that living in Holland is equivalent to getting rich and wealthy or at least meeting opportunities to reach these objectives. I ask her what she is going to do in Holland. "I will study", she answers. "In what language?", I ask her. "It cannot be in Dutch". I guess I broke her dream. "Find me a husband", she tries. I write her name and address on a piece of paper and continue my walk.

At the bus station I have my daily ration of vitamin C in the form of zeitun- and lemon juice. The fruits are local products and therefore fresh, cheap, and healthy. Children sell small bags with roasted peanuts for a Nakfa. When I try to picture them, they hide behind the buses. An old man is selling dates. I wait till it is time to go to the wedding, watching the buses come and go, teasing the children with my camera.

At 14:00 I am in bar restaurant Stuttgart, exactly in time. I am one of the first guests. Rahel and Hidat are re-arranging the chairs and tables. I help them a bit. One hour later the feast of Tesfalem en Seghen, the marrying couple, starts. Speeches, diner, music and dance, the wedding cake, and just before 17:00: the closing ceremony: the bride and bridegroom make a last dance, surrounded by most of the visitors. Money is collected in a colored bowl.

My feet are ready to dance. I put my shirt back into my pants, and respond to the challenges of Hidat and Rahel to join the dancing crowd, before it is to late and the party is over. Body language, both from the people on the dance floor and those staying behind on their chairs give a clear signal: "thank you for sharing these  joyful moments with us!"

I wish Tesfalem and Seghen a happy marriage, and leave the restaurant with all the other guests. I am surprised to see the couple leave in Afeworki's car, with Afeworki driving it. Afeworki is surprised as well. He tells me Tesfalem is one of his nephews. It's a small world here in Keren.

For the first time since I came to Eritrea I experience some good rains. It makes the evening nice and cool, wonderful for a perfect nights rest.    

 

Traditional house - Keren Eritrea

Traditional house - Keren Eritrea

Modern house with colorful mosaic facade - Keren Eritrea.

Modern house with colorful mosaic facade - Keren Eritrea.

Children celebrating their second Baptism - Keren Eritrea.

Children celebrating their second Baptism - Keren Eritrea.

Coffee ceremony with a Keren family - Keren Eritrea.

Coffee ceremony with a Keren family - Keren Eritrea.

Celebrating Baptism with a Keren family - Keren Eritrea.

Celebrating Baptism with a Keren family - Keren Eritrea.

Shopkeeper - Keren Eritrea.

Shopkeeper - Keren Eritrea.

Bus (former railway) station - Keren Eritrea.

Bus (former railway) station - Keren Eritrea.

Wedding feast of Seghen and Tesfalem - Keren Eritrea.

Wedding feast of Seghen and Tesfalem - Keren Eritrea.

Seghen and Tesfalem, just married - Keren Eritrea.

Seghen and Tesfalem, just married - Keren Eritrea.

Musician playing the Krar at the wedding feast - Keren Eritrea.

Musician playing the Krar at the wedding feast - Keren Eritrea.

End of the wedding feast - Keren Eritrea.

End of the wedding feast - Keren Eritrea.

 

 
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