Last Trip to Massawa

A clam Massawa morning in early 1968 - add a light breeze, 101°F (39°C) air,
and the salty-sweet smell of the Red Sea and you'd be just about there.

Crossing a different Flats

Green trees, green grass, green bushes, brightly colored flowers, and a smell of moist air were everywhere. A hundred times before I had driven from Asmara to Massawa on the 72-mile (115-km) road that spends its last 35 miles (56 km) winding through the driest and hottest desert that I've ever seen. In the past the only colors had been dirty sand, volcanic black, and dark, dried-leaf green-brown. Today it was green--and only hot, not excessively hot.

It was mid-February. It had rained several times in late January and early February. The sun was back, but the green was still here. Acacia shrubs looked like innocent, green bushes. Prickly pears had taken the opportunity to quickly flower and produce beles, a fist-sized fruit that is sweet and juicy once you get by its tough, spiny skin.

Soon we entered Edaga Berai, a large village of one-story, stucco buildings just before Massawa on the mainland. The Italians called the area just to the north Campo di Marte. It was a supply depot, one end of an aerial tramway that carried tons of material the 47 miles (75 km) from Massawa to Asmara between 1935 to 1941. ...

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Copyright © 2002-2006 Mike Metras

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