Date: Wednesday, 22 February 2017
Taking a ‘last minute’ short trip out of Asmara is the best way to enjoy a break, a change of air, a change from one’s routine. Travelling within the country is common for Eritreans. Some would go on pilgrimages, hiking, on a barbecue party or visiting relatives in the countryside. Many others would take the time to go down to the Port City of Massawa to breathe the air of the Red Sea and that’s what I did last weekend. Truly, I realized once again that an unplanned trip always offers the best outcome!
On top of that, an important part of the population goes on the longest fasting period of the year until Geez Easter starting this past Monday, commonly known as tsom arba’a.
Hence, this last weekend was a must for those fasting to enjoy before entering more than forty days of chastity. And, to my surprise, Massawa was packed with tourists, young couples, newly-weds, groups of youngsters, associations and even companies on their yearly gathering. Wonderful to see the city filled with people. The chilly season didn’t stop anyone from jumping into the Red Sea, while some played football and volleyball by the beach.
Another reason so many decided to drop everything and have a holiday have a holiday also due to the starting of domestic flights in Eritrea, making the journey easier and also a discovery to many. Of course, I was on one of those flights. Red Sea Air, the flag carrier of Eritrea, started its domestic flights on the 4th of February linking Asmara to Massawa, Assab and Sawa. Wonderful, isn’t it?
The seats were full, children with their parents were the happiest on board. Many couples were enjoying the moment, holding hands. Eritrean pilots were solicited for photos by a group of mothers proudly saying “adjokhum eziom dekina”, literally translated as “be courageous our children”.
Many won’t probably understand and wonder “why all this enthusiasm?”… Actually, being able to offer domestic flights to citizens, tourists and investors is a challenge a country has to tackle. Giving the choice to use different means of transportation not only eases the burden on road traffic but also shortens distances.
Without doubt from a touristic point of view, going by the road allows one to visit different towns, take the time to stopover and visit different sites. One great option is to go by the road and come back by air and this is what I did last weekend.
Going back to “Why all this enthusiasm”. It is a particular symbol for Eritreans and Eritrea to be able to fly over within the land. It is an important part of branding the nation, a way to let local citizens have access to affordable air tickets while ensuring their safety. A local flight, a local plane with local staff, what else can one ask for?
Further to this, places such as Sawa and Assab are now becoming easier to reach. Especially Assab, which feels so far away from the rest of the country can now be visited easily! No need to take the long route under the heat of the Danakil. Parents can easily reach Sawa and visit their children Sawa Training and Educational Centre.
Being able to embark on one of those flights allowed me to see with my own eyes the development and service available. As such, a great surprise. The willingness of the staff of Eritrean Airlines to give the best services couldn’t be denied. Indeed, as I didn’t buy my ticket in advance, I just dropped by the Eritrean Airlines office on Sunday, five minutes away from Dahlak Hotel in Massawa. A lady and her two young assistants welcomed me and other visitors with a smile ready to answer our questions. Lucky me, some seats were still available to Asmara.
After buying my ticket for 366 Nakfa and 50 Nakfa for tax fares, the company provides a luggage storage allowing one to go to the port city and enjoy a meal or a visit before time is up without having to carry our belongings. By 2.30 pm, a shuttle bus came to pick us up by the office to go to Massawa Airport.
Upon arrival, the staff welcomed us by the door of the airport, a newly built with the latest facility. After checking in our luggage and security checks, a high standardized waiting lounge wass ready for passengers to commute. Smartphones and cameras were quickly out, everyone smiling at the cameras and capturing the moment of “I am inside Massawa Airport”.Finally, the plane arrived, everyone rushed to the windows glass making sure that they don’t miss a second. The plane landed safely, passengers from Asmara quickly walked down the plane. Later on, it was our turn to embark, kids ran with their back packs moving from one side to the other of their back. “I am first, I am first” they shouted. While lovers slowly get closer to the aircraft with a bit of nostalgia, “our trip is over, back to reality’ some murmured but as soon as they sat down, with seat belt fastened, excitement again.
The co-pilot welcomed us on board both in English and Tigrigna. A pleasure to my ears to hear one of Eritrea’s local languages by a local pilot in a local airplane. At that exact time, every felt a sense of pride and realized we were experiencing flying on a domestic flight.
Finally, I was able to have an aerial view of Eritrea’s landscape. The peaks of the mountains piercing the thick clouds and quicker than expected, in just about 15 minutes after we were airborne, a plateau on top of the mountains where Asmara stands started to be seen. A Wonderful view of the city. After a round-up, time for landing. “Seatbelt fasten, bi gobo inte’atequ”, told the co-pilot before thanking us for flying with Massawa Airways.
A wonderful first experience with an Eritrean domestic flight and surely the beginning of many more. Eritrean Airlines is putting the standards high in ensuring professionalism and security to its passengers which is a pleasure to local passengers.
Certainly, in my next to-do list, it will be a trip from Asmara to Assab. Until then, what are you waiting for? Book your own ticket now!
For detailed information, visit the Head Office at Eritrea Airlines by the Cathedral in Asmara or neat SDahlak Hotel in Massawa.