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.
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.
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.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Maryam Dearit (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 Maryam Dearit. Read more about this site.