Day 542: Eritrea Uncovered


This morning I was invited around to a local girl’s place for some traditional Eritrean breakfast. Saba and I sat in the back yard of her single room shack as her mum expertly roasted and ground coffee beans before funnelling them into a traditional spherical pot, added water and then placed on the fire. Breakfast was a yummy meat, potato and onion stew that wasn’t far from being scouse, served with bread and the freshest coffee I’ve ever tasted.

You just can’t beat home cooking, can you? Eritrea pretty much closes down from noon until 5pm, so after thanking Saba and her mum, I headed back to the ship for a little siesta. As you can no doubt guess, it gets rather hot here in the afternoon. After grabbing forty winks I headed out of the port to try and hunt down some wild internets – I needed to send out a message saying that I had arrived!!

There is no international roaming set up here, so my British Sim card (and my Saudi one, mind you) had no signal, and to buy an Eritrean Sim is a mission that (I’m told) could take six weeks. Seriously. Six weeks! Oh yeah, and even if I get an Eritrean Sim, I can’t make international calls anyhoo! So I needed to get online and let Mandy and my family know I was safe and well and to ask Leo to change the country count to 161.

Not so fast, Poindexter! The one and only internet place on Massawa Island was closed, as was the one on Taulud Island. I walked all the way over the long causeway to the mainland, and on finding the internet place open, thought I had caught myself a break. But it was not be! They had no connection, that’s why the other two places were closed – it seemed the whole of Massawa was cut off from the wibbly wobbly worldy widey web.

I dropped into the neighbouring bar to knock back a few cold sodas and got chatting to a group of ex-pats from Germany, Spain and South Africa who were working on a project for the Eritrean government. Lots of red tape? Surprisingly not. They had been in Massawa for a week now and would be popping in and out of the country for the next few months rolling out the venture. I wished them well and suggested they visit Massawa Island sometime – the mainland was nowhere near as pleasant.

So a quick bus ride back to the port (I’ve walked enough today) and it wasn’t long before I bumped into the chief again – Nay is from Burma and has sailed all over South East Asia, the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. After his twelve-month contract expires he is hoping that maybe he could be captain of his next vessel. He’s also far enough away from the military junta that is running Burma to be able to speak freely about the situation there. Let hope over the coming years that more Burmese people are given that freedom.

Later on we watched the Ghana vs USA match together on a TV set up on the street outside a bar. When Ghana won the place erupted in jubilation – nice to see Africa united for a change. I finished off the night with the Filipino crew from our ship, but managed to moderate my drinking this time and even headed back to my cabin at a (kinda) reasonable time. Tomorrow we set sail back to Saudi. All systems a-go-go.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Brian Hazlehurst

    Graham, I can just smell that superb coffee aroma. Pity meal was like scouse, as staple traditional “injera” and “wot” (“teff” pancake + sauces/toppings) is delicious. Having lived and worked in Ethiopia, was an Eritrean Liberation Front hostage for 5 months (1976), and a very similar kidnapping occurred very recently, I’d warn all travellers to steer clear of the region. Pity security for foreigners is so bad, as the potential for lucrative tourism is huge.

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