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Diaries of a Saudi tourist (Part I)

Mohammed Al-Nasser, a Saudi tourist visited Eritrea in the 1960s. Following his trip to the country, he published a journal entitled “The Tour through the Green Africa”. On his book, Mohamed wrote the impressions, and what he has witnessed during his visit to Eritrea.  Below are some of his impressions translated:

August 16, 1964
My trip to Eritrea started from the capital of Sudan, Khartoum.  Right after our plane took off and we were out of Sudan, we were met with high mountains covered with green vegetation. Although there was fog covering our view to look at the land below us, when the fog cleared we were able to see vast lands and high mountains covered with green rich vegetation. In less than one hour flight, we arrived at the capital of Eritrea, Asmara.
Once at the International Airport of Asmara, we were received with a young receptionist who gave us forms to fill, we asked the lady if there are forms in Arabic, she brought us one, and there were many clerks at the Airport that can speak Arabic language, and it was unique to meet people who can speak the Arabic language at various posts. There are also a number of citizens in the country that can speak the Arabic language very well; as a result we didn’t have any hindrances as one can encounter in a foreign land. Many of the nationals’ frequent Italian words while speaking, but they have their own languages. Later we went to the central part of the city, the hotels, restaurants and cafes are very neat and the employees of those service-rendering institutions are polite with pleasant appearance. Neatness seems one part of the Eritrean culture. Since it was summer season, the weather was cold with frequent rains and fog.

In the next morning I visited some shops, the local market and supermarkets, everything in those places are clean and neat, I have also visited the Mosque which is again very clean and neat.  I visited the Al-Amen School where students of various nationalities learn, but all the teachers are Eritreans, what impressed  here was also the cleanliness of the classrooms and the school compound. The price of food and other materials is also minimal especially in comparison to the price of those items in Sudan.

August 20, 1964
Early in the morning I took the train to Massawa, the trip was splendid and breath-taking, not only regarding the landscape but also the weather changes with every 100 meter the train descended to the sea-level. In our trip we spend around 10 minutes in fruits rich town of Ginda, once in the city of Massawa, we were received with houses built traditionally from stone and wood. The port city of Massawa has some similarities with Jeddah of Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed then writes on his journal that previously the port city of Massawa used to be called as the “island of Massawa”, and later with the construction of the long bridge connecting the two parts of the city, is the town transformed into a port city.

Continuing his adventure in Massawa, Mohammed wrote: “contrary to the cold weather of Asmara, Massawa has hot weather where one can’t sit without a ventilator or air-conditioner. In the restaurants we visited the reception and hospitality of the general public is marvelous.   The politeness and respect the people to strangers and among themselves is something that one can’t overlook. In one of the restaurants they offered us tea for free after we have lunch, and the person helping us with our tour to the city didn’t ask for any money, he simply is assisting us in our tour to the city.”
According to the book, “The Tour to the Green Africa”, around 16 thousand Saudi citizens used to live in Massawa, but in 1964 the number reduced to around 4 thousand. This is also one of the evidence to the politeness and welcoming hospitality of the Eritrean people, said Mohammed in his book. 

To be continued ……

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