March 15, 2020
It was quite a change entering Eritrea after having just left Yemen. Life is basic here as well, but the streets are clean and everything is working.
The capital Asmara shows a beautiful snap from the bell Epoque, dotted with vintage art deco buildings. Been a former Italian colony it still has a lot of Italian style and flair around every corner.
The winding road from Asmara to Massawa on the Red Sea is an adventure by itself. The criss-cross turns taking one from 2400m to sea level in just over two hours. With it comes the change in climate. Asmara sees crispy days and cool nights with strong sun during daytime due to its elevation. Down in Massawa it is warm, almost hot and humid. Visiting Massawa also feels like a journey back in time with its abundant colonial buildings which unfortunately are in disarray and are falling to pieces. However one can still see the haydays of colonialism with all the luxurious houses and storage buildings and last but not least Haile Selassie’s summer palace at the entrance of the harbour.
Being Swiss it is especially interesting to understand why so many young men flee the country and seek asylum. While it is true that a totalitarian regime is ruling the country and expects its young men to serve the national service for an unknown time span (could be years) it is certainly not true that this all means military service. We met a lot of young men still in service who can arrange themselves with the situation and work different jobs in addition to government service which is usually not more than 50% and being paid as well.
All in all it was an enjoyable experience. Eritrea is a tiny country by African standards, but it hosts a wide variety of ethnic groups and changing landscapes. Despite the rough political and economical situation, this country remains one of the most inspiring places to visit in Africa, especially for those looking to get off the beaten track once in a while!