Sunday, September 11, 2005

Update from Asmara

It was a cool and misty morning when the alarm clock (well, mobile phone) went off at 5.15 this morning. Fred decided to stay in bed, while I jumped out and into my clothes ready for a walk up to the church.

We had heard singing and chants all night, coming presumably from the church (Asmara is not that big). People were already out on the streets. Some were coming back from an early breakfast after a night out at the nightclub, others on their way to church. Others, on their way out of the mosque, also dressed in white.

Up by the church there were groups and individuals, standing still in their white robes, some in the long green grass under the trees, others on the steps up to the church. In the meantime, the chants from inside the church could be heard, sometimes accompanied by drums. The men next to me would read their prayers individually, reading from little books, the size of their fingertips. Every now and then the congregation would say its ‘Amens’ and prostrate themselves on the ground, in a way very similar to Muslims. All the time one kept thinking that this is what early Christianity must have been like, such that when Islam started off, when the difference between the two religions was very little. Christianity had reached Eritrea through the Syrian monks and saints in about the 5th and 6th century and has probably seen less changes than those seen in the West.

It seemed as if this service had no beginning and no end, as one chant superseded the other. At once, some men came out from the back of the church, two holding a golden cross, the other the holy of holies, covered by a colourful umbrella and they proceeded out of the church to continue the service outside, in front of the masses in their white robes, a good chance to take some pictures, as by now the sun was out.

Altogether fascinating.

Fred has written a blog (into Word) but he is unable to publish it as the internet is hardly working at all, and just as you get to the page to send an e-mail, or create the blog etc. the computer just stalls. About ten minutes ago, I almost published this but tried to be too clever in attaching a photo and lost connection. I am now hoping to ‘cheat’ by using flickr to post this.

Further, we are having a quiet day here in Asmara, drinking coffees at the streetside cafes, opening the cooled bottle of Australian Chardonnay which Fred ‘scored’ yesterday afternoon, reading books, writing postcards etc.

Hopefully, the tourist information office will be open tomorrow, as may a travel agent or two, so that we can start to plan what we want to do here in Eritrea. The Lonely Planet guide we have has far too few details to be of much use outside of Asmara. We are reckoning that unless we can find some good information here, we might as well move on so as to give us more time in Ethiopia, about which we have the wonderful Bradt guide with enough ideas to keep us busy until Christmas – although we will NOT do that as Fred particularly wants to go to South Africa and I would like to see Uganda.

We are still thinking of how we make it down from Uganda to South Africa. One idea is to take a train through Tanzania and down to Zambia, with a coach through Botswana to RSA, the other being the train to Tanzania and coaches through Mozambique to RSA. Another would have us on boats along some of the lakes down south. We’ll see. Anyway.. time to publish now….

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