My Experience in Eritrea


Served as Senior Academician for Two Years

(Dr. Shankar Chatterjee)
The State of Eritrea (henceforth, only Eritrea will be used) is a country located in
the northeast of Africa got its independence on May 24, 1991. However, it was declared an
independent country through a UN-supervised referendum in April 1993. The country
celebrates its independence every year on May 24. It was under Italian rule, but in the Second
World War, through the Battle of Kerenin 1941, the British took over the administration of
the country as Italian forces were defeated by the British, and many Indians under the
umbrella of the British army were killed by the Italian forces. The British placed Eritrea
under British Military Administration until Allied forces could determine its fate. Later on,
Eritrea was merged with Ethiopia, which, subsequently, Eritreans did not like. After fighting
with Ethiopia, Eritrea got its independence. The capital of Eritrea is Asmara, a small town,
and thorough out the year, the weather is cold, so woolen items are required. 
Its land area is  117,600 square kilometers.  The current population of Eritrea is 3,755,807 as
of Monday, August 7, 2023, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations
data. The people speak different languages – Tigrinya, Tigre, Arabic, English, Beja, Kunama,
Saho, Bilen, Nara, Afar. President Isaias Afwerki has governed Eritrea since it became an
independent country in 1993. His People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDF) is the
sole political party. Eritrea is a one-party state and a highly-militarised society.
The people are broadly divided into two religious’ groups – Christian and Muslim. The
population of the high plateau is predominantly Christian. On the other hand, the population
in the low land and coast is predominantly Muslim. Every year on January 7, Christmas is
celebrated in Eritrea with full gaiety, not on December 25. as celebrated in other parts of the
world by the Christians. Variation of date is due to different calendar followed by Eritreans,
and many told me as per the Gregorian calendar date was on 7 January. Every year 19
January is celebrated as Epiphany Day in Eritrea as a national holiday. I was told Jesus was
baptized on this day. Thousands of people having Christian faith gather in a place, and the
Bishop sprinkles holy water on the head of each person. They prepare different types of food
and invite guests.  An Eritrean family invited me for a cup of coffee in the evening with lots

of snacks. The celebration of Eid in Eritrea is just like India only dates vary for 1 or 2 days.   
Once, Eid- ul –Fitre occasion, a family invited me for coffee.
Fish is my favourite dish. In Asmara, only Red Sea fishes were available that used to come
mainly from Massawa port (more than 100 kilometers away). No river or pond fish was
available in Asmara. Throughout the year, many vegetables were available in Asmara. These,
inter alia, were potato, onion, tomato, cabbage, pumpkin, salad-leaf, a local variety of
cucumber (locally known as Jukni), etc. The other vegetables, such as cauliflower, brinjal,
radish, etc., were available very less.  It has to be admitted that the vegetables that were
available were very fresh and tasteful, as no pesticides or chemical fertilizers were used
during cultivation.

The other agricultural goods which were produced were barley, lentils, millet, sorghum,
wheat, dairy products, vegetables, and fruits. The export items of Eritrea were mainly live
animals and hides and skins etc. The important cereal that was widely grown and cultivated is
‘Teff’, very small foodgrains. After grinding, Injera is prepared. Injera looks like our Indian
dosa but big in size. The family members, after cutting it into pieces, eat with non-veg items
and vegetables. The people of Eritrea eat lots of non-veg. Anyway, I suggest to our Union
Government ‘teff’ cultivation may be introduced in our where it suits to climate and soil.
Because it requires less water. The crop teff has rich nutritious value.

Before winding up, it is pertinent to mention that the people are cordial towards outsiders and
particularly respect Indians for Indians knowledge and wisdom. When I was in the country as
a senior academician observed in many schools, colleges, and universities, many Indians
were serving with honour and dignity. (Author is Former Professor & Head (CPME),
NIRD & PR (Govt. of India) 


  1. Dear Dada, Namaskar and Good Morning. Great. You always document meticulously and give your candid impressions. May God always bless you with great success in whatever you do. Kind regards, Madhava

    Prof V Madhava Rao
    Former Professor and Head (GIS)
    NIRDPR, Hyderabad


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