Gash Barka Must Be Your Next Trip!

Whenever my Eritrean diaspora relatives come on vacation to Eritrea, the places they probably tend to visit are Massawa, Keren, maybe some Islands and visit our relatives residing in our village. I also hear that is the destination for many diaspora. Its gets tedious with time, visiting those places with my relatives, especially if they come every year and go through this routine form of vacation.

Eritrea is not dull and the places mentioned are not the only tourist attracting sites. For instance, Gash Barka region is one of the fascinating and exuberating regions to visit. Let me share with you why it should be on your “Must Visit List.”

The allure of work trips often lies in the promise of fun, minus the actual work – or so they say. I recently embarked on a work trip that defied this notion, offering a blend of both labor and insight. The journey took me to Gash-Barka, an administrative region acclaimed as the “breadbasket” of Eritrea due to its thriving agricultural activities and abundant minerals.

Our expedition commenced early in the morning, setting the stage for a day of traversing diverse landscapes. Accompanied by colleagues who were no strangers to the region, I was reassured that our exploration would transcend mere tourism and delve into meaningful interactions.

Unlike those who indulge in breakfast before a journey, I prefer sampling local fare along the route. During a tea break in Keren – a town known for its Art Deco architecture, captivating women, and robust men – I remarked on my dining habits. My colleagues engaged in a lighthearted debate on whether Keren’s charm was more pronounced in the evening. Meanwhile, I contemplated whether to break my fast as a slight unease set in, a common sensation I experience when transitioning to lower elevations.

Opting for sustenance, I ordered scrambled eggs, prompting raised eyebrows and a smile from my companions. Their amusement stemmed from the fact that I had missed out on an authentic culinary experience awaiting us at our next stop. With unanimous agreement, I anticipated our impending destination.

Our next stop was Akordat, renowned among my colleagues as one of Eritrea’s hottest locations. Upon arrival, the sweltering heat substantiated this reputation. Our first visit was to the town’s administrative office, an Italian-built structure designed to withstand hot climates. Architecturally, it manifests a mixture of styles, including Eclectic Moorish, Neo-classic, Novecento and Cubism. Its location up on a hill gives visitors a panoramic view of the town.

Standing on the rooftop of the building I saw another eye catching building, which I found out was built in 1962 and was designed by an Italian architect named Muzedin. It is a two-story modernist building that looks like a ship. The town is full of diversified art deco buildings, tunnels and fortification built for World War II.

After addressing our tasks, it was time for lunch. The anticipated meal was a local favorite – Qicha Fetfet, a spicy dish blending chopped crusty bread with silsi (onions, tomatoes, and chili paste), reflecting Eritrea’s culinary fusion with Italian influences. Accompanied by fresh yogurt, the meal was a delightful departure from my expectations.

With satisfied appetites and the sweltering heat inducing drowsiness, a nap was in order. An hour later, murmurs announced our proximity to Barentu, the regional capital. To rouse ourselves from our mid-journey daze, we paused for tea.

The tea stalls, lining the street leading to the bustling market, were a testament to the local tea culture. Upon seating, patrons were immediately served water – a custom I found endearing. Surrounded by fellow tea drinkers, the atmosphere was vibrant, intensified by the cooler air of Barentu.

………to be continued

Written by Milka Teklom

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