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May 2007 - Celebrating Eritrea's 16th Independence Day
 

 

Keren Eritrea - May 29th 2007 Festival of Mariam Dearit

 

As usual we start the day with drinking fresh brewed coffee with some small breads in the yard in front of Afworki's house. Hansu want to give me some food, to have something to eat at the festival. I tell her there is stalls selling drinks and food. And there is a good chance I will be sharing some injera with one of the many families. 

I am happy with a bus ride from restaurant Stuttgart to the festival area with Hidat and Rahel. It is 9:00 and we are late. The procession already started. But since it circles seven times around the shrine in the hollow baobab tree, this isn't much of a problem. The public is gathered, five rows thick around the path that the Madonna, the priests, nuns, theological students, and musicians will follow.

After the procession, I try to reach the Madonna statue, following the instructions of a few Eritrean women in Holland. Hundreds of people are trying to do the same, trying to get close to the statue, touch it, make a wish or a short prayer, and leave some money, or one or more candles with the priests safeguarding the statue.

I rest for some time under a shelter in front of a small church, where hundreds of people are attending a mass.

I slowly walk past the trees, that serve as a small picnic areas, where families have spread some mats to sit on, drinking tea or coffee, eat injera and other food brought from home. Just outside the compound people are selling home made lemonades, pieces of water melon, biscuits, candles and small religious artefacts.

"Come and sit with us", one of the families invites me. They offer me coffee, kitcha, injera and suwa. They have recognized me from the previous year and ask me if I brought their pictures. I did not, because I thought the chance to find these people back was almost zero. I write their address, so I can send the pictures when I am back in Holland. It is very hot, so I take all the time to enjoy the hospitality offered, and sit in the shade of the trees.

While walking, I am invited again, and again. Every time I am asked to join the coffee ceremony and eat with the families. One of these families is having a conversation in Tigrinya, mixed with one word "internet". I try to understand what they are talking about. I do not understand, but they explain themselves: "We are living in the neighborhood of Afworki and Hansu's house. Our family in Canada called us a while ago that they have told us that they have seen our pictures on the internet". I feel a bit ashamed that I did recognize any of them. We make more pictures.

Groups of women are singing and dancing, on the beat of oil can drums, swinging their heads on the rhythm of the music, with brings their plated hair in a horizontal position.

Before walking back home, I enjoy a few glasses fresh lemon juice at one of the stalls just outside the compound.

 

Women carrying a banner of the Holy Mary in the procession - Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Women carrying a banner of the Holy Mary in the procession
Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Statue of the Holy Mary in the procession - Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Statue of the Holy Mary in the procession
Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

People trying to touch the statue of the Holy Mary - Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

People trying to touch the statue of the Holy Mary
Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

People attending a religious service - Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

People attending a religious service
Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Abrehet in traditional clothes from the village Halib Mentel  - Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Abrehet in traditional clothes from the village Halib Mentel 
Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Picnic with an Eritrean family - Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Picnic with an Eritrean family 
Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

People gathered around the baobab tree with the shrine - Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

People gathered around the baobab tree with the shrine 
Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Coffee ceremony with Africa and her family - Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Coffee ceremony with Africa and her family
Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Young girl - Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Young girl
Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Picnicking in the shade of the trees - Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Picnicking in the shade of the trees 
Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Coffee ceremony with with a Keren family in the shade of a tree - Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Coffee ceremony with a Keren family in the shade of a tree 
Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Boys selling home made soft drinks - Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

Boys selling home made soft drinks 
Festival of Mariam Dearit - Keren Eritrea.

 

 
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