Friday, September 09, 2005

Africa - we have arrived!

Asmaret, Fred and Jonas outside the gelateria

Yes, and in a couple of hours here we have already spoken to more women than in five days in Yemen! Hannah and Ella at the restaurant, where we had pasta with sugo - meat and tomato sauce, no parmesan, and Asmarit, at our hotel (Hotel Khartoum), who lives now in London and told us not to expect the Eritreans to be too friendly, unlike the English!

Anyway, all is going well here. The skies are clear and the temperature is cool (actually feels cold). It is like being in Italy, with coffee bars and gelaterias all around. Fred had his Campari - for less than it cost in Sicily last year, just missing the slice of lemon though. We noticed wine from Italy - Veneto and Lago Trasimeno (?) as well as South Africa and Australia, maybe we will try some tomorrow, although I notice that Fred cannot wait to get his lips round a glass of nice cold chardonnay.

After checking in we took our first tentative steps out onto the streets. They were full with young Eritreans, all wrapped up well - mostly in very dull colours (which apparently is typical for Eritreans). After passing the Babylon Bar, opposite our hotel, we made it out to the main street - Harnet Avenue - very spaciously laid out, lined with palm trees. Here we came across the Cinema Impero (which sadly seems to have closed), which is a large typically 1930's art deco style cinema, then the Roman Catholic Cathedral (although most Christians here, we are told are Orthodox, but which Orthodox we need to find out), from where the bells were chiming - making a change from the muezzins of the last couple of months, an abandoned villa, numerous pizzerias, coffee bars, drinking dens and pastry shops and then a large government building in extreme 1930's art deco/fascist style, which I am looking forward to photographing tomorrow.

And now we are in the Danait Internet centre, with slow but adequate connections and notices telling us not to visit pornographic sites. But the young boys and girls are all on yahoo messenger sending each other love hearts.

We have learnt our first words to Tigrinya - tsubuk = good, yekenele = thank you, ashugaman = towel (i.e. asciugamano) and pani = bread (pane). We reckon thet there are a very limited number of words which if you can learn greatly help one. Funnily enough while all guidebooks will tell you how to ask teh way to the post office or the train station, none of them tell you what the words are for good, excellent, my friend etc., words which in fact are far more valuable. Anyway, thanks to Hannah and Ella for these first lessons and we hope to learn some more tomorrow.

First, Asmarit has offered to take us around town a bit before she catches her flight back to London. We are told that the markets will be quite interesting as many country folk will be in town. It is good to see women again, after all the black tents or colourful cloths of the last few weeks and it seems that women played a large role in the independence struggle against the Ethiopian imperialists.

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