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Beles, New Faces & All things summer!

Days of rain and wild roses, typical summer, after the breathless spell of hot weather and sunshine, the showers are inevitable. Although some have been gently summery – good growing weather, as gardeners say – many have been epic downpours, looming like fantastical cities of cloud, bursting into tempests, thunder and lightning, cats and dogs, stair-rods, flash floods.

Sometimes the whole Asmara spectacle comes and goes in minutes, fascinatingly local when a kilometer or two down the road remains bone dry. The weather feels personal, purging, and inside the storms is another, existential world. Or that’s how it felt, broken down on the motorway. Mercifully, I was in a café shop, even lucky enough to have a seat by the windows and once the rain started it was hard not to glance through the windows and enjoy the rain pouring down, even have a laugh here and there at the expense of the ones caught in the rain outside.

I had been lucky enough to experience the phenomena that have dominated discussion hours at home, work places, bus and taxi stops, and even the simplest of walks with friends.

“Did you enjoy the rain, last night?” asks one friend.

“Heavenly, it is like the world was being cleansed and being rid of all sins.” replies the other.

“I hate the rain, kept me woke the whole night!” jumps into the conversation the third, of course there is definitely always one person who hates all things good.

Summer in Eritrea is something to enjoy, for everybody of all age, that old cliché about Christmas being the most ‘magical’ time of the year never quite rang true with me. It was always summer. School’s out, cities empty and are somewhat reclaimed by locals who happily indulge themselves by visiting typically touristy hotspots, kids are out doors, playing all kinds of summer games.

There’s something about rains and nature…the very first drop gets me on high spirits…It just makes me feel the world is a wonderful place. When the first rain drops fall: women hurry outside to call their kids or to put things away so that the rain won’t soak their belongings while kids escape from their mothers so they can play with the neighbors in the rain, step hard on puddles! Games every child grows up playing during the summer are that of “pallina”, “tembo” and “football”, aside these games the Eritrean version of hide and seek “Ataemamat” under the rain and fog creates this unexplainable thrill in the hearts and memories of the kids.

I really love summer! As a child, I impatiently waited for school to end. I couldn’t wait for homework-free, long, hot days hanging outside with friends playing soccer all day, reading books, riding my bike, looking for the next fun thing to do with friends and family. Often I just enjoyed doing nothing. Now, as an adult, I haven’t changed that much. I count the days to summer. I sleep a little longer, sneak out of work and grab a macchiato with a friend and still I try to make time as much as possible just to play soccer in the mud. There are summer days where I long to do nothing but enjoy the day and evening immersed in a good book.

In Asmara, the rainy season is the most sought after and extremely anticipated of all seasons! It is not only because school is closed and most of our relatives and friends from abroad come but also because it is the only few months in which we see rain.

During this time people enjoy the season in different ways: Some find the inner peace on the simple daily routine, others get away from the city and go to our naturally rich country sides, while the young ones seek for fun and enjoyment. Because they know September is just around the corner and everyone will go back to school under the dry and sunny sky.
Therefore while the youth of the country as usual and as always spend their days in keeping the promises of the martyrs in building a stronger and wealthier country for generations to come; they spend the weekends and their spare times relaxing and spending some quality time with friends and families. Asmara also offers recreation centers that provide fun and excitement. They also spend their leisure time listening to music, performing different sports activities and arranging excursions in groups outside the city, a simple “Carpe Diem”.

Moreover, high school students, specially freshmen and sophomores get to experience nature and its beauty first hand , getting outside of the city under the project called “Maetot “ , where they get to have an adventure acquainting themselves with the countryside and engaging themselves for some weeks in contributing their capacity in the development of their country. While the juniors start packing for their senior year in Warsai-Yikaalo School getting as much of Asmara as possible before they leave for Sawa.

And then you have the Festivals! The first starts in Sawa, with inauguration of the current round of students who had been in Sawa for the previous 10 months, if you have been lucky enough to get a ticket to the festival, then, you surely know the spectacle and experience that comes with visiting the place. The second is of course a much bigger affair and it is usually held in Asmara’s expo compound under different themes each year, this signifies Eritrea social & cultural harmony, as all nine ethnic groups found in Eritrea come with in close proximity of each other for two weeks’ time and share their traditions with the good people of Eritrean locals and diaspora visitors as well as foreigners of different nations. Both of these festivals have something so rare that it can’t be found in other parts of the world, to which the knowledge of our rich and prideful cultures are transferred to posterity.

Beyond the festivals, there are different places to visit in Eritrea, as most of us are already aware Eritrea is one of the few places around the globe that enjoys three seasons in two hours’ drive. In fact any one could experience such, on a drive to Massawa through the FilfilSolomuna road. A must visit destination during the summer. Massawa, Dahlak Islands, and Adulis are among many places to visit during your stay in the shores of the Northern Red-Sea.

Keren is also another wonder of a place to visit while in Eritrea, the scenery along the road to keren are tempting enough for you to stop here and there to take pictures, the famous ‘Libi Tigray’ road is something to see and enjoy. Mind you, it is not for the light heart. The big Elabered garden is also a spot to stop and see, whilst, managing to buy huge oranges and banana’s for the road.

There is just something magical about this particular season, it would be a waste if you don’t manage to visit one of these places mentioned above. Summer days are long and beautiful. The sun shines often. People are typically happier, calmer, more open, which makes taking a vacation even sweeter and pleasant.

Back in Asmara, in the capital nick named as ‘the City above the clouds’ you get to enjoy the passagio, taking a stroll down Harnet Avenue in the early evenings, the lively Asmarino youngsters are out doing their thing, living their lives, catching up with friends from abroad and frequenting all the hotspot to hang out at. Not only that, but the early mornings are to die for, breakfast at Bar Royal, or Asmara sweet café, a cup of macchiato in hand, with a pastry every pastry chef in France would be proud of, a little advice, make sure to get a seat by the window. For lunch perhaps visit spaghetti house, again get a seat outside, the fresh breeze of summer wind is an appetizer. If you are more of an indoor person, there are so many places to go grab a lunch, Asmara Palace, Roof Garden, Lion, Alaskala, Albergo Italia, Alsikomoro and so many others and for dinner, perhaps have a little cookout at your house, have a couple of friends and relatives over and enjoy the starry night.

The food is just fresher during the summer, a particular delicacy that only comes once a year during this particular time of year is Beles, once the rain starts kicking in, this local delicacy is something nobody can get enough, local sellers are out at every corner of Asmara, taking advantage of the demand situation, people are gathered wherever, eating beles, while having a little chit chat with each other. Before they know it, they have had five beles each; it is just something you can’t get enough of. One more please! Would ask every one before they run back to work or to their appointments. Even the drinks are somewhat cooler, and more to enjoy. As I grow older, I appreciate it more and more.
Finally, all things summer remind me of a certain writer who once said “Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” Summer gives you that chance. Take it, will you?

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