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Eritrea: Maryam Dearit

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Maryam Dearit | Eritrea | Africa

[Visited: January 2004]

An easy and rewarding excursion from Keren is an approximately 2 kilometres walk to Maryam Dearit, or Madonna of the Baobab. Setting out from the market, you first have to pass the Italian war cemetery - this has been the site of fierce fighting in 1941, but also afterwards, in Eritrea's war of independence. Walking towards the north, we saw African huts instead of the houses of Keren, and reached the fields of the countryside. It was here that an old Eritrean caught up with us.

Picture of Maryam Dearit (Eritrea): Maryam Dearit baobab tree near Keren

As many other older people in Eritrea, his Italian was still very good, and he wanted to share his view on the Italian history as a coloniser which was surprisingly positive, as most other older people are positive about the Italian legacy in their country. He also showed the way to the shrine. After going through the gate, we walked down the tree-lined avenue leading up right to the baobab. This tree started life in the late Middle Ages, its radiates oldness but also strength and resilience. For Eritreans, fertility spring from this very spot.

Picture of Maryam Dearit (Eritrea): Shrine inside tree at Maryam Dearit, near Keren

During the air raids of the British, Italian soldiers sought refuge inside the tree, and although the tree was hit, it survived, and so did everyone and everything inside. This obviously served to strengthen the power of the shrine. Although apparently women wanting a husband or children have to prepare a cup of coffee for visitors, I didn't see any. This, however, didn't make me admire the tree less. It is a truly massive and robust piece of wood and the shrine inside is surprisingly spacious.

Picture of Maryam Dearit (Eritrea): Shrine of Maryam Dearit in baobab near Keren
Picture of Maryam Dearit (Eritrea): Baobab shrine from inside, Maryam Dearit
Picture of Maryam Dearit (Eritrea): Maryam Dearit baobab shrine, Keren

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