From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue May 04 2010 - 07:24:55 EDT
ERITREA: a life time adventure tour! Massawa, 19/04/10 - PART ONE
May 4, 2010
Just after returning from the 6th YPFDJ Conference in Berlin, I was told
that the Ministry of Tourism has arranged another tourism potential sites
inspection tour in the Northern Red Sea Region (NRSR), similar to the one
conducted in the Debub Region late last year. I joined the group!
What exactly we observed, during the tour, was that Eritrea is a land of
esteem; historical as well as natural. The tour's first visit was
Massawa-the NRSR Museum, Salina, sgalet ketan, the three tanks' monument and
others where the major sites we visited. The three tanks which played an
important role in the liberation of Massawa are a statue of peace; their
tube that ones fired bombes on people is now pouring water! Their name is
Commander, Tiger and Jaguar. Each of them was burned after accomplishing
their mission; crossing Sgalet Ketan, the only bridge that connects two
sides of Massawa.
Massawa has a long history of trade and conquest during different colonial
powers-- the Turkish, Egyptians, Italians, Britons, and to the worst the
Ethiopians. The Turkish styled houses where the major symbols of ancient
building of the port city for so many years. However, an earthquake that
took place in the 1920s almost destroyed it and its major ancient buildings
are now of Italian style. Regarding its reconstruction side, Massawa is on
the brink of rapid progress with new housing complex, asphalted roads,
airport, railway, port, different service rendering institutions and the
like; thanks to independence.
During the Dergu regime, and especially in 1990, following the decisive
operation that liberated the port city, and that put another significant
military operation in the history of world revolutions (Fenkl Operation),
the Dergu junta ordered an air raid that put Massawa into ashes. Following
independence, the port city has now become a destiny of peace and security
in addition to its improving infrastructure and expansion. Years ahead,
Massawa will definitely be a centre of trade and tourism benefiting from its
safety, strategic location, cleanliness and natural beauty.
The way from Massawa to Afabet through Sheib was also full impressive
historical sites such as the medieval styled cemeteries in Gadm Halieb and
Kubkub and places that played crucial role during the Eritrean war for
liberation, including military training camps.
We spent the whole day in Afabet, a city that was liberated in the decisive
battle of 1988. This victory of the EPLF over the Nadew Command is
considered by the historian Basil Davidson to be the most significant
victory for any liberation movement since the Vietnamese victory at Dien
Bien Phu. It has also been described as the most decisive battle for
independence in Africa. As the town was a major garrison the EPLF also
captured a large cache of weapons in addition to those captured in the Hday
valley, a valley that connects Afabet to Nakfa. Another important
consequence was the capture of three Soviet military advisers (a fourth was
killed in combat).
The Soviets were not confident with the military power of the Dergue regime
that they came to assist. The wall of their commanding post was 85 cm thick
concrete and has windows on all directions. Their commanding office, there
for, attracts the attention of many visitors. On the other side of it you
see the commanding center of the Secretary General of the EPLF, hdmo (a
traditional building) built inside the city. It was constructed after the
war was over so as to help the commanding office to have close contact with
the advancing forces. "For you surprise," said one of the people we meet
there, "no one knew this was Isaias's office." It is still well preserved
and would be a major tourism center when it is repaired and well kept.
Driving a little to the north, on the way to Nakfa, you reach Asherom, a
place that changed everything at the battle of Afabet in favor of the EPLF.
When a tank and truck were hit by Eritrean 100mm guns, the burning vehicles
blocked the road. The Ethiopians were forced to destroy their weaponry to
prevent them from falling into EPLF hands. Although the remains of the
vehicles are still scattered in the area, some were taken away by floods. A
place that changed the power balance between revolutionary fighters fighting
for their independence and invaders with huge military and every kind of
support from big powers is worth visiting and making it a tourist site in
the near future-the Soviets might visit the place where their soldiers were
captured in the war for Eritrea's liberation.
The next stop was NAKFA!
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