Journey to kerkebet

The day before our trip to Kerkebet, NUEYS’s driver, Mr. Asmerom, announced that we needed to get ready for 4:00 am the next day. On Friday March 5th, Asmerom left a drop call on my phone as a signal that he was outside of my house to pick me up. Asmerom and I then drove to different neighborhoods of Asmara and towns in the outskirts of the city picking up fellow coworkers, voyagers, who were all eager about the trip.

It was still dark outside that morning, but life starts early in Eritrea. We passed countless of people riding bikes and horse carriages on our way outside of downtown Asmara. Men and women carry their goods from villages to the markets of the city at dawn. Young girls riding bikes together in groups painted the crack of dawn with their loud cheers and laughter on their way up to town. It made me think of the freedom they have and also the sense of security they feel as they grace the beginning of a new day with their feminine grace. ‘Safety’ and ‘Women’s Bravery’, were amongst other topics which sprouted by the things we saw and experienced on the way as we headed down the road to Kerkebet.

In the vicinity of Balewa, Adi Berbere, our morning was ornamented by the natural breath we found there; micro dams watered by gridlocked rivers give a pleasant presence to the green body in the area.  We were told that before the construction of the micro dams, streams created by seasonal rain would wet the grazing lands and wash away fast. However, now, thanks to the micro dams, farming activities in Balewa are rigorous indeed. We saw several plantations of mango, guava and orange trees as well as vegetable plantations.

The road to the contrary was difficult. And that, urged another topic to our ‘table of discussion’. We started listing some of the big roads constructed in our country connecting cities to towns, development sites to all ends of the country, making social services accessible: the road from Adi Guadad to Himbirti, Assab-Bure, Gahtelay- Sheib, Barentu-Tesseney, Massawa-Foro and Bisha-Agordat etc. were all roads we mentioned, maybe, as a subconscious activity to comfort ourselves over the wobbly grounds we were driving on.

Our journey was accompanied by our driver’s delightful playlist. Voices of Eritrean legends made our drive ever more amusing.

By the time we had reached Keren we realized that big part of the city seemed to be sleeping-in late that morning. COVID-19, its consequence and its containment measures have forced us to close the doors of our shops and social centers. Unlike nowadays, Keren, the beautiful city praised as ‘white Keren’ by its inhabitants, used to be a crowded trade center prior to the pandemic.

Flashbacks from my childhood came to me as we drove through the city. Its beauty, the magnificence it carries in its simplicity, and above all, the impressive history it holds came to me in small pieces from a collection of experiences and knowledge of a past I hold dear in my reminiscences. I said a little prayer then; for a famous historian to discover the mysteries of Keren so that everyone learns about the city, its people and its history.

Keren holds great accounts from World War 2 and Eritrea’s Armed Struggle for Independence. On our way down to Tinkulas, I saw a tomb. It belongs to an Italian general who was killed by the British forces in WW2. His daughter came and had that tomb built in his honor, after Eritrea’s independence. This tomb, along the other cemeteries of Italian and English (Common-Wealth) soldiers, has a notable touristic potential. Younger generations in Eritrea have a sea of opportunities to exploit in the future; Eritrea is endowed with ample historic and natural wealth that can attract tourists in search of historical references and virgin, unexploited nature. They will also have an opulent story to document. A chronicle of patriotism, altruism and sacrifice their siblings, fathers and forefathers made in order for Eritrea to stand tall and proud.

Our journey kept on. Due to the travel ban there were few cars passing our car. Caravans of camels however were marching up and down the curvy roads outside of keren.

After Tinkulas we reached the spread of vast lands. The oasis of the area is Hagaz: the beautiful town that serves as a refreshment spot where voyagers take a break and enjoy the simple delicacies of the area. The traditionally made plate of beans “ful”, topped with a cup of spiced tea and a bowl of fresh yogurt… a mouthwatering menu we knew we’d have to skip this time around. 

Another Travelers’ Favorite Stop is Agordat. The milk products that come from the villagers’ homes are avidly awaited by travelers. Likewise, Aderde too serves as an amazing recreational center. Back in time, Aderde was simply a village on the side of one of the biggest roads in the country. However, ten years ago Harat Travel Company designated Aderde to be a stopover for its buses. It took a little time for people to notice and fall for the inimitable hospitality of its inhabitants as well as its beautiful weather. Now, ten years later, Aderde has become a dynamic town where several commercial activities are steadily growing – well, at least, until before the lockdown.

Because of the lockdown our trip kept reminding us of the specialties that make many societies in Eritrea unique and admirable.

We dashed through the road to continue our journey leaving behind the road of Agotdat-Mogeraib, drove through Tekriret, Bisha, Mogeraib, Keru and Afhimbol and finally reaching our destination: Kerkebet.

This was how our journey to Kerkebt went, I will write about our stay in kerkebet in the next piece.

Ehab Ghirmai

Translated By Billion Temesghen

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