Eritrea shares quite a lot of similarities with her older sister, Ethiopia in spite of the frosty relationship between both countries. Apart from using the same calendar, several cultural and religious festivals are celebrated in the same manner and time by both. These include: Meskel, Fasika, Lidet, etc. However, the Festival Eritrea is certainly not one of them.
When Mussolini’s Italy colonized Eritrea in the late 19th century, transforming Asmara the capital into what they referred to as La Piccola Roma, Little Rome, the aim was to really use Eritrea as a launch pad to possess Ethiopia.
The sequence of events that followed saw Eritrea come under Ethiopian rule which culminated in a war of independence from September 1961 to May 1991.
Festival Eritrea: Long Before Independence…
Interestingly, Festival Eritrea did not start on African soil, but in Europe – Italy, in the city of Bologna to be precise. It all began on the 4th of July 1974 as thousands of Eritreans from Europe, Middle East and North America gathered in the Italian city. Initially, the gathering was to meet with loved ones and get updates on the liberation struggle and share ideas.
Since then, Bologna became the rallying point until 1991 when Eritrea became independent. Since then, the festival has taken place in Eritrea and in several other cities across the globe. These cities include, Bologna, Toronto, Riyadh, and various cities in the USA.
In Asmara, the celebration is known as Festival Eritrea Expo Asmara and it usually takes place in the last week of July and continues into August for ten days. Largely a celebration of Eritrean life and culture, Festival Eritrea is the biggest festival in the country. The activities usually take place at the Asmara Expo Exhibition grounds.
The various ethnic groups in the country participate in dance, music and theatrical performances. Also, local foods, arts and crafts, costume are on display and sold in bazaars. Some of Eritrea’s neighbors and ally countries like China have sent performers to take part in the festival.
There are camel rides and special sections for children as well. Also, popular Eritrean musicians put up performances to entertain the crowd.
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