Red tape in Eritrea

This item appears on page 14 of the May 2010 issue.

During a private tour, we visited Eritrea, Feb. 5-14, 2010. Sana’a was fabulous. I’ve been to 111 countries, and the Old City is one of the most intriguing places I have been. However, we feel ITN readers should be made aware of the deteriorating tourism situation in Eritrea.

We were not able to go to Senafe, Segeneiti and the ruins of Qohaito and Metera, as the government has made travel difficult.

For each and every destination out of Asmara, our tour company, Explore (we booked through Adventure Links (13220 Yates Ford Rd., Clifton, VA 20124; 800/877-0954), had to go to the Ministry of Tourism for a permit, which would take until the next day to receive. Worse, the ministry would no longer issue a permit for fewer than five people (it was just the two of us) to Senafe and those nearby ruins.

It doesn’t seem to be about keeping tourists safe; the government even shut down travel to the very important port city of Massawa, for no apparent reason, after we went there. This deprives hotels and restaurants of all business from travelers. Locals told us that the government doesn’t care about tourism.

Our guide and his agency were professional, and, despite the difficulties the tour companies had, what we could see was interesting and the people we met were very nice.


Oakland, CA