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Relics of past battles by the Red Sea

date of entry 28/02/1994
mileage 125,043

capital Asmara

area 121.100 km²

population 6.380.803

GDP 1.316 M. US-Dollar

official language Tigrinya/English/Arabic

Eritrea is marked by conflict with its large neighbour, Ethiopia, and its drive for independence. Time and again during the 1980s and 1990s, when the Holtorfs travelled through the country, war broke out between the two countries. Around 75 per cent of the population of this dry, infertile land work in agriculture. Even so, foodstuffs have to be imported, and there have also been many severe famines.
  • Round huts with their straw roofs surrounded by papaya plants, which provided essential vitamins.
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  • The National Insurance Corporation wished a warm welcome to Eritrea in 1994.
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  • Asmara, the capital of the former Italian colony, which later belonged to the Kingdom of Ethiopia, projects a modern impression.
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  • The city is still characterised by its Italian colonial architecture.
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  • In practice, Eritrea is still a one-party state, in which Marxism and Leninism once held sway.
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  • The country extends along the coast of the Red Sea, cutting Ethiopia off from a seaboard of its own.
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  • Everywhere on the border with Ethiopia there are relics of past wars with the neighbouring country, which ruled Eritrea for many years. This sign refers to a major battle in 1988.
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  • Scattered over the barren landscape are the remains of military convoys...
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  • ... bullet-ridden troop carriers...
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  • ... and tanks.
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  • The war dead were often buried in mass graves.
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  • Elsewhere, there are neatly-arranged war cemeteries, at the edge of which abandoned tanks still stand. The schoolchildren in the foreground seemed to be accustomed to the view.
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  • Twisted remains of vehicles show the violence of the fighting, which claimed tens of thousands of dead on both sides.
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  • Bullet-ridden buildings were often still visible in the frontier regions.
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  • Conflict with Ethiopia broke out repeatedly during the 1990s.
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  • Now, however, the two countries have agreed on a line of demarcation.
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  • Away from the former battle zones, the countryside was untouched...
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  • ... but no less barren.
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  • Otto drove through the country on narrow tracks.
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  • With his 3.5 tonnes, the bridges did not inspire particular confidence. But there was no alternative.
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  • Monkeys were the only moderately large animals that Gunther Holtorf photographed.
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  • Baobab trees towered up from the savannah landscape, as they did throughout Africa.
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  • A village woman in a sumptuously-decorated antelope skin dress.
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  • Wood for the open hearths often had to be carried over long distances.
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  • Women in one village crowded curiously around Christine Holtorf.
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  • These children, meanwhile, were a little more cautious.
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  • A woman brought fresh greenery into the village.
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  • There was great poverty in the countryside at that time.
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  • On the roads, Otto usually met only camels transporting goods.
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  • Water had to be drawn by hand from deep wells to enable the animals to drink.
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  • Video: Eritrea – the inaccessible land on the Red Sea

Otto was here before ...


date of entry 11 March 1994
mileage 126,395


date of entry 18 March 1994
mileage 128,043


date of entry 27 October 1994
mileage 129,027


date of entry 16 November 1994
mileage 132,550