Sailing to Eritrea

Dec 5th, 2008, 11:21 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,834
Thanks for the interesting report Femi. From your photos, Eritrea looks like a cleaner, calmer version of Ethiopia.

There was an article recently in the NYTimes travel section about Eritrea, if anyone is interested.
cruisinred is offline  
Dec 5th, 2008, 02:40 PM
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I'm loving this report, but with those pirates attacking everything from oil tankers to cruise ships... is this the time to be planning a visit to the area?

There's usually not much that warns me off from travel, but steel flying past my ears is one of them.
sandi is offline  
Dec 5th, 2008, 05:41 PM
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Cruisinred, Asmara is justifiably proud of being one of the cleanest cities in Afica, and we found this to be true for the most part wherever we went.

Sandi, the ship did have pirate repelling measures, and they practiced while we onboard. Suffice it to say I didn't find their techniques comforting. I just hoped they had some high powered secret weapon they would whip out should a real need arise. I don't think the company will be returning to these waters in the near future.

I wasn't overly worried, I didn't think we were close enough to the troubled area, but this was before I heard about the Nautica. True they were in the gulf of Aden and we didn't sail down that far. I was really dissappointed to have missed out on Yemen, as the company had already stopped going that far south because of the associated risk.
Femi is offline  
Dec 6th, 2008, 05:41 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Great pictures!! I read about all these placed in Eritrea when I was trying to plan a trip there, so it's really interesting for me to see photos. I think my favorite is the profile shot of the little girl in the green shirt.

I'm curious - What were they making the items for at the school for the deaf?
maxwell is offline  
Dec 6th, 2008, 07:24 PM
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There were students there working at sewing machines, supposedly learning a trade. I had thought the proceeds of what they made might go toward supporting the school. But they really weren't set up for sales. There was a table with lots of things piled on it, and the people in my group naturally gravitated toward the best looking items which unfailingly were 'not for sale'. The instructor said a couple of these items were to be used as a pattern for the students to replicate, but why then have them on display with everything else?

I wanted to make a donation to the school but they weren't set up for that either. I didn't want to just hand over a wad of cash, and they couldn't accept foreign currency anyway.

They made our guide a very nice looking pair of trousers in less than a day. I asked him why they didn't promote their abilities for potential income. He said there were often problems with the supply of fabric, etc and they could never be sure if they would be able to complete an order.

I never thought about who the items might be for, it just seemed they weren't really for us.
Femi is offline  
Dec 8th, 2008, 08:33 AM
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Upon our return to Asmara we did the obligatory city tour, of which I am not very fond, but are included in just about every organized trip I have been on. I found it more interesting to watch our guide deal with the problems that arose along the way. The bell tower in the catholic church was locked and no one could find the key. There was a funeral going on in the coptic church and this brought about a debate between our Eritrean guide and British tour director as to whether it would be appropriate to tour the facility during the ceremony, although we had been granted permission. In the end I went in with the guide. We were followed rather closely by a Coptic priest which made me nervous at first. Within a few minutes I discovered he wasnít there to protest our intrusion, but to discuss the results of the American presidential election which had taken place the week before! He was quite chatty, but unfortunately the conversation was cut short because our guide was worried about the others waiting outside. The funeral ceremony looked interesting, involving very sonorous chanting and candles, and I would have liked to explore more, but we had to leave.

The next day we spent the morning riding the steam train (originating in the 1880s) down into the hills of Nefasit through spectacular scenery, over bridges, and through several tunnels. We got to meet the locals every 12 kms or so, when we would stop for Ďpressureí related issues. It was fascinating to see several dwellings were perched over steep precipices.

For our last day in Eritrea, we drove down to the Filfil forest a couple of hours from Asmara. It was a lovely location (we picnicked beside a dry riverbed), but unfortunately we had arrived in the heat of the midday sun. We spotted a few birds and some baboons playing in the distance, but it was really too hot out of the shade for me to be wandering around. I was feeling a little under the weather to begin with, I think the pace of the trip was finally catching up with me, and I didnít want to add sunstroke to my problems. It would have been much better to visit in the cool of the morning with a knowledgeable guide. It looked like a great spot for birding. Iím not sure what nearby accommodation options are available.

Our meals were a combination of traditional Eritrean fare and Italian pasta. Varying items on the menu were frequently not available in restaurants. The meat I enjoyed the most was lamb. The goat was frequently unchewable, and more than once I would just swallow whole chunks. Fish was plentiful and good. The ubiquitous enjera (or injera) varied widely in quality. We later found that this was because various ingredients (such as sorghum or millet) would be added to the more expensive teff (?) to make it stretch a little farther.

Toilets ran the gamut. Carrying your own tissue is the norm. In one situation people waved at me through the alarmingly low window of the toilet as they walked by. By the end of the trip all the ladies in the group became expert at gauging just how long we could wait.

Now that I've been back a while and am recovered from the exhaustion of the pace and the flight back (ASM-JED-FRA-LHR-SFO-LAX!) my memories of Eritrea are becoming fonder. The strongest impression I was left with is the quiet dignity of the people. Cruisinred's comments have stirred a flicker of interest in Ethiopia and how it would compare.
Femi is offline  

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