Wed 21 Apr
Asmara does not disappoint. True to expectations set by the guidebooks it's the most relaxed capital I ever recall visiting. Tree lined avenues, colonial buildings, and "buzzing" in a "sorted" sort of way: buses, newspapers, people on their way to work, students comparing homework in a coffee bar; patisseries, and well-stocked shops, efficient tourist agencies and government offices. Within hours I have worked out an itinerary and obtained a Ministry of Tourism travel permit for all the destinations I can think of. People are mostly wearing western dress, young ladies often retaining the traditional white woven shawl for modesty, or to keep their clothes clean; I can’t tell.
I get my haircut and catch the first bus to the provincial town of Keren. We drive through some magnificent mountain scenery and around hairy hairpin bends. I make my way along to the rooftop bar of the Keren Hotel for sundowners. The sunset is classic but enhanced dramatically as half the sky is black with thunderclouds. As the light fades I am treated to an amazing scene of lightening silhouetting the mountains that surround the town. The rain dampens the dust and refreshes the air.