Asmara, Eritrea Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Asmara, Eritrea

Asmara, Eritrea 02/23/19

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I've lived in two Balkan posts, one in the Caucasus (former Soviet Union), and one in the Caribbean.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC. About 17 hours via Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines. Similar time on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, but the US government currently doesn't allow the direct Dulles-Istanbul flight because they haven't negotiated a discount deal for that route. To go via Istanbul for the government requires an additional Frankfurt stop. Some people still like the Emirates connection via Dubai, if they consider the 19 hour Dubai layover a feature instead of a bug. It has the advantage of arriving rested in Asmara.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Almost six months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is spacious and has some very nice features (high ceilings, big windows, lots of natural light, outdoor space, flowering or fruit trees), but also quirks and idiosyncrasies. Asmara is small, with light traffic. Commutes are fewer than 10 minutes by car. Many people walk or bike. Houses are scattered in residential neighborhoods.

Many embassies and international organizations require their staff to locate their own housing, which many find a bit challenging. Most choose to spend the interim in apartments provided at the Asmara Palace hotel, the one more or less international standard business hotel in Asmara. The apartments are reportedly reasonably comfortable, and guests can take advantage of hotel amenities.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Imported items are rather expensive, and availability is variable and somewhat limited. However, ever since the Eritrean-Ethiopian border opened in mid-September 2018, goods availability (especially foodstuffs) has gone up and prices have fallen considerably. Even before that, availability had gotten better in the last 2-3 years than they had been longer ago. So, if you look at older Real Post Reports on Eritrea, the situation now is definitely much better than it was several years ago. A wide variety of dry goods are available in stores.

There are foreign exchange stores where diplomats can buy wine and liquor, cleaning supplies, etc, for fair prices. The selection can be limited, sometimes.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Wines (especially white wines) are limited, and a good thing to ship in a consumables shipment if you have that opportunity. Sauces and liquids (especially for ethnic cuisines/flavor palates other than Italian) are worth shipping. Italian food, as well as Eritrean/Ethiopian food/spices are widely available. Also useful to bring over the counter medicines. Many people enjoy having a bicycle too, for both transportation and recreational riding. Eritreans are big into cycling, again both for transportation and competitively.

It's not uncommon for expats to plan weekend getaways to Dubai periodically and bring back meats, cheeses, or butter in insulated bags, to get a broader variety than is available locally. Beef, lamb, and seafood are available here. Chicken and pork are scarce.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are a good half-dozen or so restaurants in Asmara routinely frequented by internationals. Probably the best (and most expensive, at $15-25 per entree) is an Indian/Chinese restaurant known as Roof Garden. There's a good handful of places that provide pretty good Italian food and/or Eritrean cuisine, as well as general "international" cuisine, such as steaks, hamburgers, seafood, etc. There's a place that makes pretty good brick over pizzas. Seafood comes up fresh from the port of Masawa for the better restaurants or you can order for yourself if you get to know one of the guys who bring it up from Masawa. Food delivery services aren't available, but takeout is an option from many places. Also, day or overnight trips down to Masawa (~two hours from Asmara) feature excellent fresh-caught seafood meals.

Some of the popular places include:
Ghibabo (Eritrean, Italian & international in a great setting)
El Sycomoro (Italian)
Roof Garden (Indian/Chinese)
Silver Star (modern cuisine in an art-filled dining room)
Family pizza/pasta
Mar Rossa (Ertirean)
Ghirmay (really good Eritrean traditional cuisine in an Eritrean house setting)
A couple of restaurants in the Expo fair grounds whose names I don't remember
The Asmara Palace hotel has several restaurants and an Irish pub, but honestly I haven't eaten there yet.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not really. Some houses have a bit of an ant problem. Seasonally crickets.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use the diplomatic pouch, which usually takes about two weeks, sometimes a bit longer. Haven't tried the local postal service.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help is available. I don't know many, other than chiefs of mission, who have full-time help. More common is a couple days per week which can be had for US$150-200/month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Asmara Palace hotel offers memberships, and is really the only private/commercial gym in town, so far as I am aware. I believe it's $1,500/year for a membership. They have two pools, one indoor, one outdoor, tennis courts, sauna, cardio and weights. This also functions as a bit of a social center for some non-working diplomatic/international spouses during the day.

The US Embassy compound has a modest gym, a pool, and a clay tennis court.

Bicycling is a widespread hobby for local and internationals alike.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

There are no credit cards and no ATMs anywhere in Eritrea. Cash only.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Roman Catholic and Lutheran.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Not necessary. Eritrean schools are conducted entirely in English from grade 7 up, so most Eritreans, especially younger ones, have at least some working knowledge of English, though most are not fluent. Although the dominant local language in Asmara is Tigrinya (related to Amharic), Arabic is also an official language, and many Asmarinos have decent Arabic, so that can be useful if you speak it. Older Eritreans may speak Italian. I've seen few formal Tigrinya teaching programs, but it should be pretty easy to arrange lessons or tutoring affordably if desired.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

No worse than any other developing country, and perhaps better than many, but still has challenges. There are many disabled Eritrean veterans from the wars. One routinely sees wheelchairs (motorized and not) on the streets and sidewalks. However, many older buildings are not easily handicapped accessible. Asmara is a city of almost entirely mid-20th century buildings.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Public transportation is relatively scarce, and generally not recommended. Many locals rely on a small number of buses and minibuses, bursting with humanity, which are not recommended for foreigners. Taxis are somewhat better, but scarce aside from a few well-traveled routes, and safety/security is only so-so. Fortunately, Asmara is compact and relatively walkable. Many get by on foot or using bikes for their transportation needs.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Toyota is the easiest for parts and servicing; the only car company that currently has an authorized dealer/repair shop. I say "dealer" but that's misleading because Eritrea has banned private car imports since 2011. Only diplomats, embassies and international organizations have been allowed to import cars since then. So the local car market is distorted.

Although I've definitely seen worse, some roads in Asmara and Eritrea are potholed and a bit rough, so an SUV with a bit of ground clearance and good suspension isn't a bad idea -- especially if you're interested in joining the weekly Sunday hikes in the countryside surrounding Asmara.

Carjacking is non-existent in Eritrea, though nighttime vehicle break-ins -- breaking a window to grab property left inside -- has been happening some, off and on. Most diplomats have secure parking at their homes, inside the garden wall, as well as (unarmed) guards to keep an eye on things at the house. The vehicle break ins are mostly an issue when parked in dark downtown areas in the vicinity of bars and clubs.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet is quite limited in Eritrea overall. Embassies and international organizations make arrangements to provide it for their offices, and some of them may make arrangements to provide connections at home as well. Our embassy-provided home internet connection is usually fine for web browsing, texting, and voice calls over Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp, etc. Video chat is more hit or miss; sometimes it works fine, other times not. Video streaming is more problematic. The internet quality varies with how much demand is put on our limited bandwidth at any given moment. Since there's no commercial provider to install internet at home, how quickly it's installed depends entirely on your sponsoring organization. We tell people to bring their own WiFi router from home in their luggage.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

There is no international mobile phone roaming in Eritrea. None of your American, European or other international cell phone plans function on Eritrea's network. However, I've kept my US. T-Mobile account active, and use their feature to place and receive phone calls over WiFi connection as a way to have a valid U.S. phone number and the ability to call the U.S. like a domestic call. This works well for me. I presume other international providers offer a similar service.

The state-owned Eritel monopoly is the sole provider of mobile phone services in Eritrea. There is no data service, only voice and SMS. It takes some weeks after arrival to receive an Eritel sim card.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There are veterinarians with decent training, however facilities, equipment, medicines, and supplies are sorely lacking. If you bring a pet, bring as many supplies as you possibly can with you. I'm unaware of any quarantine requirement.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are comparatively few opportunities outside of the diplomatic missions and international organizations. The US Embassy usually has more positions than available applicants for our in-house family member employment positions, but these are only open to U.S. Embassy family members. Some spouses/family members can work or volunteer at the Asmara International Community School (an IB-accredited grade 1-12 school) or at the Italian School. I've heard of one UN spouse getting a job with Finn Church Aid, the only international NGO in Asmara, and I've heard of one person volunteering with FCA.

Telecommuting may be limited by the poor internet reliability. Anything that requires steady or frequent real-time online presence (e.g. videoconferencing) might be hard, given that the internet comes and goes. However, telecommuting could work if you only need to send and receive documents over email.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

See above answer. Not a great deal of formal opportunities, but opportunities may come up serendipitously. You might lead a book club or discussion group at the American Center. I know of a qualified music teacher who volunteers teaching advanced instrumental performance at the music school. People willing to be organizers of community events, hikes, bike rides, snorkeling trips to the Red Sea islands, house concerts, art shows, lunches, dinners or house parties, will always be appreciated.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Eritrea is somewhat more relaxed than many other places I've been. Diplomatic functions normally do call for business wear. Many Eritreans are likely to go tie-less. Formal attire (e.g., tuxedos) is not seen here.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Most people feel pretty safe in Asmara, especially in daylight hours, though common sense precautions apply. Most crimes happen at night, especially late night in poorly-lit areas.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No particular health concerns. Some people find the altitude takes getting used to. Medical care is uneven, shading toward poor. Doctors and nurses may have excellent training, but resources are lacking. Some embassies and organizations have well-stocked and well-equipped health units. Treatment beyond that calls for going abroad.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality is great. The air is a bit thin due to altitude.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Nothing comes to mind.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Definitely not SAD. The weather here is bright and beautiful with mild temperatures virtually the whole year round.
While no particular mental health challenges come to mind, many people find they like to travel abroad every few months. Asmara can be a small place, and sometimes it's nice to get away to a more developed consumer economy.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Mild, sunny and beautiful! There is a summer rainy season, but even that is not as rain-soaked as I knew in the Caribbean. It gets just slightly chilly (sweater or jacket weather) in the evenings in Dec-Jan. Otherwise, it's mostly blue skies, mild temps and bright sun. The normal daytime temperature is in the 70s F (mid-20s C)

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The Asmara International Community School (K-12) has just been approved for IB accreditation. I think it's a reasonable school, but we don't have kids, so I have no direct experience and nothing to compare it to. The Italian government also runs an Italian school (K-12) here.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I have no information

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I have no information

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Some, I think, but maybe not a whole lot.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The expat community is richly inter-connected, with lots of opportunities to socialize with members of other organizations. I don't really know the size, but I'd guess probably about 100 or so people. The Italian community is the largest single group, and a bit of a community unto itself, though we certainly do interact with them. Alleance Francaise has a weekly movie night (customarily French movies with English subtitles) at which the whole expat community is welcome. The American Center also shows movies, perhaps monthly. There is a weekly Sunday morning hiking club, whose listserv is often used to publicize other events and opportunities in the local expat community.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

House parties, diplomatic functions, hiking club, biking, tennis or swimming at the Asmara Palace gym, shared meals, game nights, movie nights, art gallery openings, classical music concerts, trips down to Masawa or the Red Sea islands (where people camp and snorkel). Locals may invite you to weddings or birth celebrations. There's a regular weekly Wednesday lunch group of expats and a smattering of Eritreans involved with the expat community at a downtown restaurant.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Maybe not the best place for a dating scene for singles. Good for couples and reasonably good for families. Organized kids activities are probably more scarce here than other places, and older kids in particular won't find many expat kids their own age.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There is no open LGBT community, so far as I'm aware.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Locals tend to be warm and friendly, but for many there's also a certain reserve about how close and in what context they might want to be seen with foreigners. No prejudices or ethnic concerns come to mind.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Comparatively few. Unregistered religious groups (e.g. Jehovahs Witnesses, Pentecostals), in my opinion, may feel pressure and disapproval. The registered religious groups (Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Islam) practice freely but are strongly discouraged from political or social activism.

Eritrea has nine ethnic groups, but Eritreans have a strong, patriotic, national identity as Eritreans, which transcends group difference. There is no sign of ethnic discord among Eritreans of different backgrounds. Eritrean women fought side by side with men during their decades of war with Ethiopia, and a certain ideal of gender equity remains part of the ethos. However, there are also strong gender roles, and I would not say there is gender equality.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Asmara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its mid-20 Century Art Deco and modernist architecture, mostly built by the Italians during the colonial period. Architecture buffs will be delighted, though many things are a bit dilapidated around the edges. It's also a city fully of flowering hedges and trees. Old coffee houses and cinemas delight. I also find the Eritrean people warm and delightful.

This is such a thoroughly unique place, unlike anywhere else I've ever been. Everyone says that. It's a singular place and culture, whose past cultural influences interweave Ethiopian civilization, the Ottoman Turks, the Italians, the Egyptians and other Arab influences, the Brits (briefly), and their own rich local tribal traditions.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Just see the city, and other Eritrean cities, and keep an eye out for architectural flourishes. Outside cities, the landscape is austere but compelling. Many people particularly love going down to the Red Sea islands for camping, swimming and (i'm told) incredible snorkeling.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not so much, although there are some very talented painters and artists. Art buyers will find things to appreciate. Some people buy the colorfully embroidered women's traditional dress.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great weather! Light traffic. It's walkable & easy to bike here. Compact. Cool Art Deco architecture. Fascinating history, people and culture.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

It's a place full of nuances and subtexts. Its international reputation can be misleading. It can be a tough place for many of its citizens, in ways that a foreigner often may not see, but there's a lot to admire and appreciate, too. Not least of which is the grit, self-reliance, and resolve that saw Eritreans through almost six decades of war and/or cold war with the former Ethiopian regime. However, it's fascinating also to see the joy Eritreans take in the new peace with Ethiopia and the sincere goodwill they have for most Ethiopians, and many family connections across the newly-opened border.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Definitely.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter gear.

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4. But don't forget your:

Empathy, curiosity, and flexibility.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

There's a surprising array of books about Eritrea. I haven't read as many as I should. I did read "I Didn't Do It For You" by Michela Wrong.

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Asmara, Eritrea 09/22/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Fourth, as I have also lived in India, Armenia, and Lithuania.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

From Washington, DC, it’s about 22 hours door to door.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Over a year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Poor construction, lots of gaps between doors and windows that allow for rain or critters to get inside. Houses are block, which echo like crazy, and your every movement can be heard by neighbors since you are most likely sharing a wall. Size is adequate for living but not really for entertaining, but it just depends. Red dust is everywhere. Commute varies from 3-15 minutes, very walkable or bikeable. Yards are mostly patches of dirt bricked off, around the house. We made gardening due with a lot of containers we shipped in via Amazon.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Very expensive and poor quality. Root vegetables, watermelons and oranges are about the only thing we buy locally. Everything else we ship in. We go for meat trips to Dubai. There is a duty free for a bit cheaper cleaning items and alcohol but they are not always stocked.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Liquid, liquids and more liquids. Oils, laundry detergent, sauces, good beer, wine, hard alcohol, beauty items, and canned items..

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are a few restaurants: Eritrean food, Italian, Indian, Chinese, Yemenese..ok. No delivery. For take-away you will pay separately for the box. Coffee places are where you see people, not really restaurants. There is an outdoor cafe every few blocks. Local beer is pretty good, so also an option.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Via work, not an issue except it can take up to a month. There is DHL and FedEx, which work fine.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available, we pay too much at US$150 /month for twice a week cleaning the house. Others pay less and have cooking, washing and shopping done. Also some have gardeners.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Being high-altitude just walking around is a workout. Work has a small gym. No local gyms that I know of, but you see a lot of cyclists and walking.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Zero. None. Do not bring credit cards. They do not work, even in the expat hotel. No ATMs. There is no electronic banking here. Cash only.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Catholics and Luterans have english sevices. Orthodox and Muslim do not. Those are the only approved religions here.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Tigrinya is the local language, but in Asmara English is everywhere. I have not heard of formal Tigrinya classes but there are some private tutors.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. Even though a lot of fighters are in wheelchairs, the sidewalks are full of holes and most buildings are not accessible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Local taxis have a designated route, four people per car at 10 nakfa each. Safe, but some pickpocketing has been observed. There are some reliable taxi drivers who will go anywhere for around US$8 per ride, you can ask other expats for their numbers. Local buses are super crowded, not recommended.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any car will do, but a bit higher is better. The roads are generally okay due to great weather, but once you get off asphalt (even in the city) it’s another story. Huge ravines and holes. The government only allows cars younger than 5 years and with no tinted windows. The factory non-tint is ok, even though it’s a bit tinted. No problem with burglars or car jacking, it’s a safe place.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Zero. None. Forget it. No local ISP. People get internet sometimes via work; it’s satellite and incredibly slow, like 8mbs

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Zero. None. There is the government provder, Eritel, which does not give SIM cards easily. My spouse who is not working has been waiting a year and has not received one. SIM cards from outside do not work here.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Zero. None. There used to be a vet but he left. Human medical personnel are sometimes helpful. Dog owners bond on this issue and may offer advice, but we don't have a dog.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Spouses don’t really work. There is the international school, the Italian school, and one Finnish NGO. Internet is not reliable enough to telecommute, in my opinion. There is no local work agreement but there are no jobs anyway.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Not formally, but there is a French and American cultural center, as well as the Sudanese club if one speaks French, English or Arabic and wants to organize language clubs.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

On the conservative side, skirts above the knee and shorts are not really common to see. No formal dress required.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Just like anywhere, be aware. Since electricity goes out a lot, streets may be pitch black at night, so flashlights are a good thing to always have, as are tissues for public bathrooms. Some heavy drinking happens at night, and the mix with unemployment makes for some potential security risks.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Altitude takes getting used to; shortness of breath and dizziness. Generally, though, you don’t need to bleach vegetables or fruit, just wash them thoroughly. Medical care is good from a skills perspective, but from a resource perspective it’s terrible. I went to the dentist and they had no exam gloves or electricity for an xray. I broke my finger and there is one radiologist in the country to look at your xray. Flights to Dubai are frequent for anything serious.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

No, air is crisp and clean, the best thing about living here. Some burning of trash but it’s tolerable. There are no industies really, so no serious air issues.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Food is limited. I don’t know anyone with allergies so hard to say.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Asmara is hard for type A personalities who want to get things done. The internet doesn’t work, the government has capacity issues, so your sense of accomplishment has to be adjusted. As someone once said, “enjoy Asmara”.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Beautiful. Average 70 degrees all year. There is a chilly season, especially when the sun goes down, so you will still need warm clothes. Locals wear winter coats when it’s in the 50’s. I tend not to wear short sleeves due to the extreme UV and dry climate, because a breeze can be very cool.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The international school just got accreditation last year, but it’s a very small school, there are several classes with more than one grade. Many Eritrean students. The Italian school is larger.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

We do not have children, but I think very little accommodation.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

About 17 embassies plus several UN agencies make a decent size expat community that is super friendly. It’s easy to make friends and find things in common to do, like hiking or playing football. There is a hiking group that meets every Sunday. Morale is pretty good.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are official events every other week; attend and get to know people. Hiking club on Sundays, football games on the weekends. Socializing with locals is also through work; we’ve been invited several times to graduations or baptisms, which has been lovely.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a “make your own fun” kind of place. Singles tend to go out together; there are a few night spots that they go to. Couples and families have each other to rely on for socializing. The limits on travel outside the capital (government permission is needed if you want to travel >25km) make for limited excursions, but there is enough to do if you put your mind to it.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I doubt it, as I understand it is illegal.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not really that I have seen or experienced. Women were very important for the fight for independence, so they are very strong and to my mind seen as equals.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The Dahlak islands are not to be missed. Best snorkeling of my life. Trips to Addis are now possible, and Dubai/Cairo are easy trips.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Toward Massawa is a beautiful drive. You can stop a cafes along the way and have a drink. There is an old coal train for tourists that goes slowly back and forth down the mountain; nice afternoon outing.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not really. There is a guy by the cathedral who sells “old Italian coins,” and a souvenir shop near Expo circle with some handicrafts.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Weather, seeing the remarkable changes that are happening with Eritra’s neighbors, and the ability to save money.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I was told how tough the food situation was, but I didn’t really believe it. I would have brought more with me before my initial shipment came in,

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

It really depends on who you work with. Do your research. I really like Eritreans, though. Funny, hearty, intelligent.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Type A energy to get things done. You can push all you want, but it will happen on Eritran time, not before.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bicycle, cleaning supplies, gardening supplies, sense of humor, and white wine.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

I didn’t do it for you by M Wong. Dan Carrol and Martin Plaut wrote a few books, but I can’t remember the names. Eritrean Journey by Robert Papstein has amazing photos. Also, get on Twitter and search for #Eritrea. You will learn a lot.

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Asmara, Eritrea 12/23/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I have lived in the Middle East, South Central Asia and Southern Africa.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

United States. The flights are generally very long and they leave late at night. When I arrived, there were few flight options. I hear Qatar has stopped operating now. However, you still have Egypt Air, Turkish Air, Fly Dubai. I believe there are some other regional carriers such as Sudan Airways.



Flying in and out of Eritrea are long routes, at early morning hours, and fairly expensive depending on where you are coming or going. For instance a flight from Eritrea to Cairo (which is a direct) is $745. A flight from Boston to Eritrea during the same time frame is $1100.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I worked for the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

I had a stand-alone, single family residence (3 bedrooms), (2 bathrooms). Residences tend to vary, but they all have relatively small yards. Working for the US Embassy you have a generator and 24-hour guard presence. The commute to work is less than 10 minutes at any time of day. We were satisfied with our housing. Our house was really good for entertaining.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries were expensive. The exchange rate is 15 to 1. A box of cereal costs about 300 Nakfa in town, which was $20 USD. For dry goods, I highly recommend the diplomatic pouch. Goods usually arrive within 3-4 weeks. Meat was generally 320 Nakfa which is about $21 USD. Shrimp when available was generally 5,000 Nakfa for a 5 kilo bag. That is $66.00 per kilo.



There are small grocery stores, where products can be quite expensive. There are also markets. It is highly recommended that you hire someone, who can navigate the shopping and (1) knows where to go to get what you need and (2) can get the best price.



You can eat affordably, you just have to do those things above.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I would recommend shipping as many liquid products as possible. Juices. Beer (as beer can be precarious). You have to have crates and bottles to get beer from the Asmara beer factory. Crates and bottles can be difficult to locate. There is sometimes beer at the duty free (cans) for $20.00 for 24 cans. But, they instituted a limit on alcohol purchase at duty free as well. If you go out for dinner and you buy a bottle of Asmara beer it is about 25 Nakfa ($1.60). If you buy any kind of import or Asmara beer in the can it is roughly 150 Nakfa ($10.00)



So, ship any liquids you might use. Also any kid of canned pet food.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are only a handful of restaurants. With a western palate, none of them are like home. Most people cook and eat in. I found eating out to simply be too expensive. If you go to Roof Garden, which is an Indian/Chinese cuisine, there is great ambiance, but dinner could run you 700 Nakfa per person very easily. There are no "true" fast food places and no delivery places. You can do take out at the available restaurants. We would eat out a couple times per month, just to get out of the house.



Honestly, the local food was much better than most of the restaurants. When we ate out we would generally eat pizza or fish cooked in red chili sauce.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We had a problem with ants.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

It is very difficult to send anything out of Eritrea other than flat mail. We received mail through the pouch. The pouch runs roughly every other week. I never used the local postal facilities.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help is fairly inexpensive. You can get someone to come 3-4 days per week for roughly $200 per month. That means they will clean and cook. You can get a gardener for about $100 per month. House help is almost a MUST in Eritrea...as it is difficult to navigate the city and markets to get goods and supplies.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are two gyms that I know of...outside of the Embassy gym. There is a gym near the US Embassy that is 400 Nakfa per month. There is a gym at the Asmara Palace hotel which I found to be cost-prohibitive and in addition they were not accepting new memberships. That said, if you are a diplomat or some other expat, if you can afford the price, the management will likely work with you, to get you a membership.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

There are no use of credit cards in country. There are no ATMs. Eritrea for the most part is a cash economy.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a Catholic Church that has an English mass at 11am on Sundays. There are 4 legal religions. Catholicism, Islam, Lutheran and Orthodox. You can be arrested for practicing an unauthorized religions. Jehovah's witnesses are often imprisoned for this.Even as an American, you can be arrested if you come to Eritrea to preach or take part in an unauthorized religious practice.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can make it without the local language. It is more difficult if you are trying to do you own day-to-day shopping however. There are always someone around who will teach local languages at a reasonable rate.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Probably no more than anywhere else. I did not see anything that really screamed to me that a disabled person would have a problem.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Local buses are cheap but ill-advised. They are often very over-crowded and are an ideal place to be pick-pocketed. Taxis can be cheap if you know how to use them. They are safe. They are easily recognizable. They run a route and if you get in and get off along the established taxi route, the rates are cheap. If you deviate, they can be more expensive. Example: from the airport to the Asmara Palace Hotel, which about 2 miles is 300 Nakfa or $20 USD. A lot of people who live in Eritrea and don't have cars have "drivers" that come at a negotiable rate.



That aside, Eritrea is very much a walk-able city, with very pleasant weather.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You can bring anything. I would recommend bringing a Toyota as an ideal vehicle, because there are dealerships and they are probably more easily fixed than other brands. A SUV is good if you plan on trying to regularly go out of the city to Massawa. When the rainy season comes, the city has a lot of flash flooding. I would stay away from anything that is highly difficult to work on and do maintenance on, and anything with a low clearance.



Carjackings are almost non-existent and burglaries are generally low.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet is virtually non-existent. There is no mobile data in the country. Most people do not have home internet, as it can cost the equivalent of $2,000 per month for something the speed of dial-up. Most diplomats and expats do not have internet at home. There are internet cafes spread out around the city, but they are considerably slow. For discussion of internet for U.S. Embassy personnel, reach out to post.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

There is no data service here, so smart phones only work with wireless networks and wireless networks are rare. That said, I would not invest a lot of money into a smart phone. A good phone that talks, texts and takes pictures is really sufficient.



It is also difficult to get a SIM card. Embassy employees have this done for them through the Embassy. However, SIM cards have to be obtained by providing the Eritrean government information about who you are, where you are staying, etc. Most visitors do not have mobile phones.



Outside SIM cards do not work in Eritrea.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There are veterinarians here that in my experience appeared to be quite knowledgeable. The biggest problem is that they lack equipment, vaccines, and medication. Almost everyone at the US Embassy has a pet. They do not need to be quarantined. You will have to ship in your pet food. There is none available in the local economy. Rabies vaccinations are available, but you will have to make sure you bring other things like heart work medication, flea/tick medications, etc.



There are no pet groomers, so you will have to cut your own dogs hair.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Those working for the US Embassy tend to work at Embassy jobs, because there is no bilateral work agreement. There are some UN agencies here, that might have openings, but when I was in Eritrea all of the spouses worked for the Embassy in a full time or part time capacity.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Not really. The host government does not actively seek and sometimes does not allow American involvement in charity or community service, etc. However, there are families who can use clothing, etc. so you could always bring in stuff and give it to the orphanages, etc.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual Formal dress is never required. You can get by an entire two years with a couple dark suits.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Expats tend to be unaffected by crime (1) because they have 24/7 guards at their residences and (2) because they don't tend to be in areas where there are heightened crime. If you hang out at the night clubs until 2-3 am, and you are walking the streets at 2-3 am, then you are inviting bad things to happen.



But Eritrea is not a very dangerous place in and of itself.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care does not meet Western standards, which is one reason Eritrea is an adults-only posting for U.S. personnel. That said, there are a number of other diplomats that do have children in country. Malaria is not an issue. With increased flights, medical evacuation is also looking better if needed. In my non-professional opinion, any injury that has the potential to be life threatening, cause permanent disfigurement, or if untreated the ability to cause long term damage...I would recommend medical evacuation.



Once again, the dentists and doctors are knowledgeable, they just lack the facilities and equipment in many cases.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good. The only thing to consider is the high altitude.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No. Just know that the Embassy is a small community, the diplomatic/expat community is small, and the city is small enough where everyone knows everyone...so it is definitely a place where it's in everyone's interest to play nice and get along.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Beautiful weather. There is a winter and rainy season, but the weather is nice and moderate year round almost. That is often the selling point of the post. The weather is absolutely great.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is a good international school here. I have heard really good things about it, and we were close with the Director. However, for the U.S Embassy, Eritrea is an adults-only assignment. .

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I don't ever remember hearing anything about a pre-school or day-care or after-school program. I think people just hired people to come and do childcare in home.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Football (American Soccer) tends to be big. There are a lot of recreational teams.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

When I was there the morale of the expat community was high. There were about 50 core expats. We all got along. Different people would host lunches, dinners, etc. at their residences. People would often throw parties at their residences. Most of the people who were there with me have moved on, so that dynamic of Eritrea really ebbs and flows. You would have to reach out to someone there to see what it was like. The Chief of Mission at the time put a priority on post morale, because in many respects it was a difficult place to work.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Most expats are quickly put into the expat scene. Most people socialize at residences or through a few bars (Zara, Macombos, etc.) Most of the Eritreans I met were "through" work on initial contact whether it be an event at the American Center or something else. There are also a number of Eritrean-Americans who live in the city. There is a group that started as a hiking group called Asmara Adventurers that serves as a social communications forum for expats.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

(It Depends). It really depends on what you are looking for. There is a night life here of sorts. The expat community tends to be young, albeit small. There are a good number of young and educated Eritreans. However, Eritrea as a whole is more conservative.



It is a good place for couples, because at the end of the day you have each other. My wife and I did a lot of entertaining that I probably would not have done if I were there single.

People with families also tend to do well.

The problem is that if you are someone who has to be out, has to be at restaurants, or some other ritzy type of lifestyle, it is going to be difficult. My wife and I both come from the Southern USA, so we are use to "creating our own fun". So if you can just enjoy great people, some food and conversation at someone's house...then you will do well.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably not. While I have no experience with this and it did not arise when I was there, Eritrea is very conservative in many respects. Those I have had discussions about sexuality did not view LGBT lives as favorable.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Once again. There are only 4 legal religions (Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox, Islam). If you do not practice one of those, you could find yourself in jail. While I don't think you would run that risk if you were Jewish or Baptist...if you were Jehovah's Witness or Baha'i...you could find yourself in trouble. The government really cracks down on Jehovah's witness mostly because of their unwillingness to bear arms and perform national service.



There has yet to be any movement on trying to get the Government to create a system for Jehovah's Witness where they can freely practice their faith, but also do national service in a way that does not require they bear arms. But as it stand everyone going to national service, must go through training which includes bearing arms.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The highlights were really the people (Eritrean and expat) that I met while in Eritrea. We had some great times, despite the general difficulties. The country has a WEALTH of opportunity. I enjoyed the slow pace of the country. I enjoyed the trips to Massawa (the coast). I enjoyed the hospitality of people.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There is not a lot to do. If you are into photography, there are some opportunities to take photos of the Italian architecture around the city. You can go to Massawa and then on to the islands for long weekends. Eritrea is quite isolated, so outside of that...you really have to create your fun.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

No.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's quiet. It has pleasant weather with very pleasant people. While relations may be strained with our governments, I feel like the people I met were extremely nice, hospitable and judged you on your own merit and not "as a American" or as a "Canadian", etc. I have been to a lot of places where individual people are reduced to their country's policy, such as Pakistan where there is generally a negative opinion of Americans. I think a large part of the difference here is that almost everyone has family who live abroad, so they have a better understanding.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Wish I had known how much I was going to enjoy it and miss the people.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Snow Boots. Winter Coats.

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4. But don't forget your:

BBQ Grills. Charcoal. Party Decorations. Beer.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

I read "Menghedi," "I Didn't Do it For You," and "Surrender or Starve."

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Eritrea is a unique place. It is a place with a wealth of potential. It can be a difficult place to serve if you are not use to entertaining yourself. The expat community for us made a big difference. When you cant leave the city without written government authorization, when there is not a lot of things to do, when there is no mobile data and internet is not readily available....you really have to be outgoing and you really have to get to know people.



We had people over almost every weekend...sometimes it was 1-2, sometimes it was 30...on a few occasions over 100. But I tremendously miss the people I met. I would serve there again if ever given the opportunity. I look forward to going back to visit, if I can obtain an entry visa.

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Asmara, Eritrea 08/08/07

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Have lived in Paris, Kongor (Sudan), Dhaka, Mogadishu, The Hague, Bombay.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Almost two years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Via Frankfurt (Lufthansa).

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. State Department.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is mostly in small one-story houses behind compound walls. Yards are small or nonexistent. Asmara is a small city and one is always within about 30 minutes walking time of the center.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Costs and availability of goods fluctuate wildly. Fresh fruits and vegetables are reasonably priced and generally of good quality. Household supplies (paper napkins, cleaning products, etc.) are pricy. Very basic goods (eggs, sugar, flour, milk) will often disappear from the market for long periods.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We pretty much knew that we had to bring everything.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are a few restaurants serving decent traditional food, as well as Italian, Chinese, and Lebanese. There are a couple of good pizza places. Cafes and pastry shops abound, where one can get good coffee and pastries for pennies.

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very available and very cheap.

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2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

They don't exist here.

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3. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. Not sure which denominations.

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4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There is a bi-weekly English-language paper produced locally, mostly full of propaganda. There is no foreign press in Eritrea. Embassy personnel have access to AFN television, which provides three channels with American programming.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A little is appreciated, but not required.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The roads and sidewalks (where they exist) are not always paved and even when paved they contain many ruts and potholes.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

On the right.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There are buses and taxis. We use them as little as possible. The buses are cheap, but usually packed with people, making them unsafe. Private taxis are expensive. Shared taxis are cheap, but not as comfortable.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

A 4-wheel drive is not necessary in the city, but if you're able to travel outside the capital it would be an asset. A vehicle w/high clearance is preferable, even in the city, due to the bad roads and severe flooding in the rainy season.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Available for Embassy personnel and family members on the Embassy compound at no cost. Outside service is available for the home... don't know the cost. There are internet cafes, but I haven't tried them.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

If you work at the Embassy, you are issued one. If you come here as a tourist, the government will not allow you to have one.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

At the Embassy we have an IVG line.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

No kennels. One vet with minimal supplies, medicines. If you are bringing a pet, bring supplies with you: syringes, vaccines, gauze, flea and tick meds, etc. There is no pet food or cat litter.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No, it isn't allowed even to volunteer.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Casual. Shorts and short skirts are not advised.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Increasingly, there are beggars and/or mentally disturbed people on the streets. They see foreigners as easy prey for handouts and harassment. One must also be very wary when taking photographs, especially near governmentt buildings. Foreign diplomats have been detained for taking photos downtown.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The high altitude (approx. 7800 feet) poses problems for some. One must be careful when eating in restaurants. All fruits and vegetables must be disinfected in bleach. Water must be bottled or distilled. There is a Jordanian-run hospital where adult foreigners (they will not treat children) can be treated on a fee-for-services basis, using US dollars. There is a health unit on the Embassy compound for Embassy employees and family members. It is staffed by an American Nurse Practitioner and an Eritrean nurse.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Two distinct rainy seasons: a short one in the spring and a long one in the summer. The rest of the time the climate is quite pleasant and sunny, but not too hot.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is an International School in Asmara, but I have no personal experience with it.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small and getting smaller as NGO's and others are being expelled by the local government.

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2. Morale among expats:

Average. Frequent forays outside the country are necessary to keep one's perspective.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Most of the entertainment is through people getting together in homes or restaurants. The Embassy has a Happy Hour on Thursday evenings during part of the year ... it is unclear, though, if this will continue. The UN has a weekly gathering on Friday evenings, to which all expats are invited.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is an acceptable place for anyone who does not need a lot of outside things to do, because the opportunities are limited. I believe that because of the nature of the international. school, families with children beyond the early years of elementary school may not wish to come.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is much religious repression. People have been jailed indefinitely for attending non-approved churches. Collection plates are confiscated by the government.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Read, watch movies on TV. Walk around the city, ride your bike. There are severe travel restrictions, so you may be stuck in Asmara. If you are lucky enough to be granted permission to travel, Keren and Massawa are interesting destinations. There used to be an active chapter of the Hash House Harriers, but it is more sporadic now, due to the departure of their long-time Hashmaster, and the limits on destinations imposed by the travel restrictions.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Locally-made baskets.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Probably not.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Love of freedom.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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