By Bereket Kidane,
The Torch of Independence is currently touring Eritrea and making its way through towns and villages before arriving in Asmara on May 24, 2016 for the Silver Jubilee Anniversary celebration. At last sighting, it was seen in some hamlet in the Southern Region enthusiastically being greeted by the locals. The National Holidays Committee and Eritrean communities around the world are busy making elaborate preparations to make Eritrea’s birthday bash this year (its Silver Jubilee) a most spectacular one.
This year, Eritrea’s birthday is a milestone event. Therefore, it will have more pomp and circumstance than usual. Eritrea’s birthday bash usually resembles that of an Asian country’s with some noticeable influence from the Far East, China in particular. The one difference being that Eritreans really cherish and appreciate their independence so the celebration usually ends up being nearly a month-long.
There is the week-long celebration of Independence Week festivities with outdoor musical concerts, street performances, and tent parties in every town that are often broadcast live on Eri-TV. Last year during Independence week, the Malian Superstar Habib Koite and his band, Bamada, treated Asmarinos to a spectacular show at Cinema Roma. Musical band guests from Sudan and South Africa are usual staples during Independence Week.
The Independence Week festivities (Qinyat Natsnet) usually culminate with a 4-hour parade and a float on Liberation Avenue with fireworks over September 1st Square as the clock strikes midnight on May 24th. Then there is the celebration at what’s become Asmara’s National Stadium, a.k.a Cicero, on May 24th, which includes a speech by the President, invited dignitaries, cultural shows by all of Eritrea’s ethnic groups, performances by visiting cultural bands, military parades by all branches of Eritrea’s Defense Forces and all the rest.
These events are always broadcast live on Eri-TV with lots of spirit and are a source of pride for Eritreans at home and in the diaspora no matter where they live on this globe. The weather is almost always perfect on Independence Day with no clouds or rain. In my opinion, Independence week is the best time to be in Eritrea.
This year being Eritrea’s Silver Jubilee, however, there is an opportunity for the National Holidays Committee to shake things up a little and make it the most magnificent and spectacular birthday bash Eritrea has ever seen. There is still time to plan things because it is two months away, but not much time because it will be here before we know it. A milestone birthday in any country whether it’s a silver jubilee, golden jubilee, centennial or bicentennial deserves a big bash, especially in Eritrea’s case. So why not go all out this year?
To give Eritrea’s Silver Jubilee Anniversary celebrations more color and international flavor, the National Holidays Committee should consider the following:
Host an Air and Water Show along the beaches of Massawa:
Eritrea’s navy and air force are too small to do this all on their own at this point in Eritrea’s history but as part of the festivities, Eritrea can invite friendly Arab, Asian and neighboring countries with larger air forces to take part in a two-day air and naval demonstration along the beaches of Massawa or Gurgusum where Eritreans can take their beach blankets and watch dare devil aerial shows. The Qatari and Saudi air forces are good candidates to participate in an air and water show in Massawa. Eritrea is now part of the coalition so some of them are already said to be hanging around the neighborhood anyway. So invite them to show off their modern airplanes and naval boats, fly in formations and stage a Blue Angels type of aerial show on the beaches of Massawa. The Royal Saudi Air Force is said to own the largest F-15 fleet in the world after the United States and Japan. Qataris will no doubt do it as a gesture of friendship and are always looking to cement their friendship with Eritrea.
Host an International Cycling Event Tour of Eritrea:
Thanks to the success of Eritrean cyclists on the international stage, Eritrea is now on the map of international cycling. To commemorate its Silver Jubilee, Eritrea could host an international cycling competition during Independence week and invite some of the top racers in Europe and Africa to take part. Invite the Peter Sagans, Chris Froomes and Nairo Quintanas to come to Eritrea and race on the Asmara-Massawa road. They are already used to cycling next to Daniel, Merhawi and Natnael on the peloton. May be even get Dimension Data to sponsor the event. Top African cyclists will no doubt come because they will want to visit the home of the champions.
Host a musical Extravaganza:
Call it Eripalooza if you will but invite musical bands from every continent on the globe to come and take part in a week-long cultural and musical festivities. Friendly countries from each continent should be asked to send a cultural exchange troupe. There should be at least two musical bands from each continent to perform during Independence Week in Eritrea this year. From South America to Asia to the Middle East to Africa to Australia and North America. Eritreans already love reggae music so it should be easy to get bands from the Carribean countries. Eritrea can pull this off because it has the infrastructure and experience of hosting large events. These cultural exchange troupes will be pleased with Eritrea’s friendly people, crime-free society, wonderful art deco architecture and a general Mediterranean way of the good life. Eritrea will exceed their expectations.
Bring Eritreans from the Diaspora in large numbers:
Every Eritrean who wants to make it home for the Silver Jubilee anniversary should have a chance to do so. As it is, every year Eritreans from the diaspora visit Eritrea during the National Holiday season to express their solidarity with the State of Eritrea. The Government of Eritrea should charter airplanes and offer discounted tickets from all corners of the globe where Eritreans live. Thousands of Eritreans from the diaspora are planning to make the trip anyway, but should be able to do so at discounted prices. After all, how often does a country celebrate a Silver Jubilee? Some Eritreans who are reaching advanced age and have spent most of their lives in the diaspora will not want to miss this chance.
The National Holidays Committee needs to think big this year.
See you this May in Eritrea.
Long Live Eritrea!