After an early start from Asmara, we picked up our companions in on the Assab expedition in Massawa and left behind the last asphalt before Assab minutes later. Within an hour, we stopped, Abdul, the driver, dived under the 4WD and soon announced that the breaks didn't work anymore. We convinced him that, instead of going back to Massawa, to continue driving and try our luck in the next village. It worked surprisingly well, even though we had to go over hilly roads with herds of goats and other animals crossing the road. Within an hour after arriving at the tiny village of Galeelo, the car was fixed and we had lunch - off we went on our way south. We saw ostriches and gazelles, in a landscape that was ever drier, flatter, and more desolate. We reached the desert, and as if to illustrate it, we saw sand dunes so symbolical for any desert. They were not high, graciously draped heaps of sand, blown into aesthetic forms by the ever blowing wind. Amazingly, between the dunes a subtle green could be seen, as if giving a sign of life where life could be least expected.
It was just before sunset when we reached Iddi, or Edi, a small settlement on the Red Sea. We took a bed each under a thatched roof in one of the semi-open air hotels for less than half a euro, had some local food and slept early. Inevitably, we woke up when the bus for Assab left, its passengers were literally sleeping next to us. As the sun started to give light to Iddi, we were finally able to see where we had arrived. An idyllic place (was that where the name was taken from?) with sandy strets, huts, colourful fishing boats and two small, simple whitewashed earthen mosques. When we reached the larger one, two men appeared in the door opening. They asked us for a pen, disappeared, closed the door behind them, and reappeared after some time. While we were still admiring the structure with its soft corners, so perfectly illuminated by the sun, the two men came out again. One of them wrote 1282 in his hand, and he proudly showed it to us. It was only after some thinking that we concluded that this mosque must have been constructed in that remote year. It only increased our admiration.
Once outside Iddi, we took some time on an empty beach, before continuing through the volcanic part of the desert. Surrounded by volcanoes, this is a large area covered with lava, which makes this part of the Dankalia region even more inhospitable. Soon afterwards, we were stopped at a military police post, and as we didn't have any permits for this region, our passports were confiscated and a soldier with a rifle accompanied us all the way to Assab. There, we eventually got our passports back and learned that there was a new law requiring visitors to have permits for visiting almost any region in the country. Assab is a port, but mainly a military camp for Eritrean soldiers, and we started off the next day for the north. I will describe our trip to the interior of the Dankalia in the Badda story. The Dankalia region, although not as inhospitable as it has been before, didn't disappoint us. The road has already been improved (it used to take many days to travel to Assab), and in the years to come will even be asphalted.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Dankalia (Eritrea). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Dankalia.
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