Asmara - November 26 2009
I wake up at 5:00, long before
Hansu and Afworki. I pack my bags, finish my notes, and check my papers
Hansu makes me coffee and tea.
"These fresh breads is for you" Hansu says. I don't understand.
Three breads for me, while there is three people in the house. The won't
let me make the trip to Asmara on an empty stomach, even if it means that
they will have to work on an empty stomach.
I eat one of the breads, and a
second one when Hansu insists that I will eat it. There is a good chance
that it took Afworki a lot of time to find these breads for me. Not eating
them could be regarded as an insult. And Afworki will eat some "Taita"
(the local name for injera) anyway.
It is this double feeling that
repeats itself again and again. Accepting generous hospitality versus
feeling ashamed to eat their scarce food.
With Hansu, who will go to her
work, I walk to the bus station. Hansu knows I will be back soon (I visit
Keren every year around May 29, the Festival of Mariam Dearit).
This time no long queue of
people waiting for the buses. From the outside I open the front window of
the bus, and claim the popular front seat with a copy of my travel permit.
A few minutes later it is
boarding time, and when all the tickets have been written (why - for the
sake of efficiency - not write them in advance?) the cornflower blue
Mitsubishi Rosa mini bus leaves the compound of the Keren bus station for
the three hour trip to Asmara (it is a two hour trip, and a one hour
check, check, double check for spies, deserters, and traffic control).
Just before noon, I am back in
Asmara. One banana milkshake and two mini pizza's for lunch in the
Cathedral Snack Bar, and then to the house of Zewdi and Gebrehiwot for a
shower and clean clothes. Zewdi prepared some delicious spaghetti for
lunch (but I
couldn't know that in advance).
At the Tourism Service Center
I apply for a travel permit to Massawa for December 1st (the office will
be closed several days because of Id-Al-Adha on
Friday, Nda Mariam nigdet on Monday and the weekend in between).
The current regulations require all travelers to get a separate permit for
every (final) destination. The permit will be finished at the end of the
I spend the rest of the
afternoon for a walk through Mai Chehot. Mai Chehot is a neat, quiet,
and charming middle class district. I planned this walk in May, but then
ended in the wedding tent.
Mai is the Tigrinya word for
water, so there should be a water reservoir in the area. I walk to the end
of town, and find the dam and a small water reserve behind it. It takes me
15 minutes to round it.
May 17 I was spontaneously
invited to join a wedding in Mai Chehot.
With hardcopies of the
pictures I will try to find the family that showed so much hospitality
The only clou to find them is
a picture of the wedding tent showing part of the street and a house as
well, and the route I walked in May. I passed a mosque on my left hand.
The wedding was a few streets further on the right hand side.
I show the pictures to a random
person in the street. "These are our neighbors!"
I receive a warm hearted
welcome by the sister of the bride, Nardos, her brother Henok and their mother.
They did not forget me as well.
They make me pasta, tea and
mineral water. Apart from the pictures, I brought them a few Logica and
Lufthansa gadgets. As a remembrance they give me a jebena (traditional
clay coffee pot).
I feel a bit ashamed. I came
to thank them for their hospitality, they rewarded me for visiting them. I
have to promise that I will return one time.
After my visit to Mai Chehot I
have a third lunch with Manna and Freweyni (my sister in law). I should
not have so much lunches if I want to lose some weight, but it is almost
impossible to refuse them.
When I have finished the
injera, I collect my travel permit at the Tourism Service Center.
At Bahti Meskerem Square they
are preparing the celebrations of Id-Al-Adha
tomorrow. Banners in Arabic and loud speaking horns are attached on the
poles of the street lights.
Ornament - Harnet Avenue
Gate and bell tower of the
Catholic Cathedral - Harnet Avenue Asmara Eritrea.
Shoe shiners - Central Post
Office Asmara Eritrea.
Mosque - Mai Chehot Asmara
Children - Mai Chehot Asmara
Water reservoir - Mai Chehot
Dam - Mai Chehot Asmara
Grocery shop - Mai Chehot
Decorated house - Mai Chehot
Villa's - Mai Chehot Asmara