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Articles: Travelogue
Journey to Massawa
- Dr. Rajeshwar Mittapalli
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January 2004 It’s about four months since I started teaching at the University of Asmara, Eritrea. I discovered during this time that weekends present the ideal opportunity to travel and see places of interest in the capital city Asmara and elsewhere in the country. And there is so much to see in this young ‘Horn of Africa’ nation. Here then is a detailed, but somewhat impressionistic, account of my weekend visit to Massawa, the Red Sea coastal town situated about 100 km away from Asmara. But to begin with, let me offer a brief description of Asmara itself. Asmara bears the unmistakable imprint of Italian culture and architecture (Eritrea was an Italian colony from 1882 to 1941). People of the older generation still greet each other in Italian with 'bon journo' or 'buona sera' depending on the time of the day, and take leave of each other with 'arrivederci.' Situated some 2.4 km above the sea level Asmara maintains moderate to cool weather all through the year. In winter people can be seen wearing at least three layers of warm clothing. The nighttime temperature often reaches 4 degree Celsius, and rarely also veers towards zero. But for some shy clouds which prefer to stay far above the earth, the skies over Asmara are usually clear and bright but these very shy clouds sometimes muster enough courage to descend on the city and take it into their embrace so that you could feel a cloud entering your house through one window and exiting through the other. Once in a while the city is also engulfed in thick fog, but visibility is never a great problem. It was from these ‘high heavens’ (well, that’s how you feel about Asmara, weather-wise or otherwise) that I started my journey by a mini-bus with a few fellow Indians one fine Saturday to Massawa. After traveling for about 20 km down the hills I was thrilled to see a vast expanse of fluffy whiteness far below, but only to understand later that it was actually a collection of clouds. This is the same kind of vision one sees when looking through an airplane window when the plane is cruising at a great height. I was mentally not prepared for this spectacle because I was told that there would be mist and not actual clouds wandering about the heights.

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