A weekend in Asmara: a Russian band, Weddings, Football games and Chinese Film Festival

About Eritrea - History & Culture

The weekend, a whole two days off from work, in which we can do what we please, is basically a universal right. The word “weekend” started life as “week-end” but lost its hyphen somewhere along the way, ceasing to be merely the end of the week and acquiring, instead, an autonomous and sovereign existence. The weekend is a time to relax. It’s a mini-vacation from work or school. Some people choose to read a book or go to the park while others take small road trips and have movie marathons. Even though there are only two days, you can still relax in several different ways. For most of us, life assumes a different rhythm on weekend; we sleep in, watch movies, and go out with friends. We also play games and go out for walks. Some of these pastimes, like football, have an old history and a newfound popularity; others, like going to night clubs and picnics are more recent. One thing is for sure; one will not be short of things to do on weekends.

The lights, the sounds, the attractions… everything about the capital, Asmara, always excites your soul. It is unquestionably one of the most beautiful African capital cities. It’s truly pleasant to stroll around on foot, with wide sidewalks, towering green trees, and minimal traffic. Bustling with creativity and innovation, you’re sure to create great memories throughout your weekends in Asmara.

TGIF-Thank God it is Friday-has famously been adopted by the millennials for years now just as happy hour is at bars. Come Friday the young are looking forward to having long night-outs with friends, starting two days of leisure activities. There are a lot of things to do over the weekend in the capital. This weekend, Asmara had a host of events across town. On Friday, at 7 o’clock in the evening, Cinema Roma hosted a concert by Izumrud (Emerald) group. The group, a renowned music band, play their own music with Russian instruments. In the past few years, the group has earned a reputation as one of Russia’s major musical innovator. Its music is an aesthetic blend of classic, ethnic, jazz, blues and rock. The group’s repertoire includes both original songs and masterpieces of world music of different epochs, styles and genres.

In the large theatre at Cinema Roma, the front rows were filled just moments after the doors were opened. Many made the effort to come in twenty minutes before the concert, as the crowd was eager to experience the excellent group from as close to the stage as possible.

The band brought energy and mastery to the room with a style of music that is a fairly rare treat to see live in Asmara.

The music of performance was rich and diverse, and much like the band’s presence on stage the sound was bursting with vitality and passion. The band’s gusto was infectious, and as they performed, the songs transformed from wild jazz melodies, to sleek, mystic and contemplative strains; the audience were engaged and moved by Evgeny Hanchin’s ferocious beating of the drums. The weekend apparently was off to a good start.

This season is particularly known as the wedding season. The streets are jammed with traffic congestion because of the more than normal flow of vehicles, most of which are cars accompanying marrying couples. In Eritrea, the traditional Christian wedding ceremonies take two days. Thus, the long weekends are always popular wedding dates for Eritreans. I’m guessing loads of us had weddings to attend over the weekend.

On the first day of ceremonies, which usually falls on a Saturday, the groom, accompanied by his best-men, goes to the bride’s house and takes her to the service at the church. After the priest performs the ceremony, the newlywed couple and all their guests go to a nearby park to take wedding pictures. After which, the couple go for a lavish breakfast. Having had their breakfast the couple are then requested to dance while a camera crew are doing their business of having to catch every bit of it. On the second day of the matrimonial ceremony, the wedding starts early in the morning with the bride wearing her white gown and the groom sporting an immaculate suit. They go to a park and spend the morning taking pictures with loved ones and guests. The official ceremony though starts as the bride and groom make their way to the bride’s home where a reception is held in their honor. Followed by another reception at the groom’s wedding party, always held at 7 in the evening.

As someone who has seen his share of a long weekend wedding, let me tell you—they are super fun. One of the loveliest parts of wedding weekends is that they give you a chance to spend time with relatives and if it is a friend’s wedding it is more fun as you get a rare chance to catch up with friends who you haven’t seen in a while—all in all you can actually spend time with everyone.

On the other hand, if by some miraculous chance you don’t have a weekend wedding to attend, as I had found out, there is plenty to do around the city. For instance, on Saturday nights there are several parties hosted across town by different DJ’s. You can dance the night away to songs of your choice. The hot spot at the moment is Asmara Palace’s Green pub, parties hosted by well-known DJ’s like DJ i6 and DJ Hailino are must visit over the weekend.

There are places you can go to and get a bite to eat, with so many newly opened restaurants in the city, eating or ordering out has become a habit for most Eritreans.

On Sundays, given that you are not suffering from a self-induced hangover, a morning stroll around the city is recommended. Asmara’s most famous building - the Fiat Tagliero, built by architect Giuseppe Pettazzi (the Tagliero once pumped petrol in the most dramatic of settings) Cinema Impero, a rather extraordinary cinema on Harnet Avenue. Painted in a rich earthy red and the front decorated with what looks like huge wireless buttons, the Cathedral and many other sites are places to visit and enjoy.

In the afternoon, one can catch a live action of the Premier League or the Spanish Laliga in the big screens at cinemas or cafes. This particular Sunday weekend it was Manchester United squaring up against Arsenal, two teams with the biggest fan base in the country. If soccer does not indulge your hunger for leisurely activity, it so happens to be the China-Eritrea film festival that opened this past Sunday. The event, which is commemorating 25 years of diplomatic relations between Eritrea and China, will be open for three days straight, screening films such as Confucius, Rgbit Noah, and Dragon, the Bruce Lee story and many Chinese and Eritrean films.

The weekend is a fantastic time to get a break from all things work. A weekend in Asmara provides just that, a break from everything by offering everything.