Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Conversation with Daniel Abbay: Graphic Designer and Restaurateur




Issayas: Would you tell us about yourself?


Daniel: I was born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia in April 1974, to Eritrean parents. As a child I was fortunate enough to travel the world, got a lot of exposure to different countries and looked at travel guide books because my father worked for Ethiopian Airlines. My mother is a special woman who to this day is the rock on my side who introduced us to business and entrepreneurship from a very young age. I attribute all of what I have done to them.

I left Ethiopia when I was 12 years old to Kenya during the Mengistu (the Derg) era as my parents were worried about the situation. Then, from there we moved to the UK when I turned 15. Life in the UK was tough and it was only me and my brother, Ben, who was 17. We were refugees with no supporting adult. All of this was to strengthen my character and carry on to study and gain a diploma at one of the the best art college in the UK - Central Saint Martins. I then studied graphics design for a year then later switched to Engineering Product Design and gained my first degree.

I have worked for myself as a freelance graphic designer on contract. We have been active in other business ventures such as setting up a restaurant since my mother came to England to escape the 98 situation.

Currently, I manage the restaurant full-time, design & amp;business consultancy at Creativeonestop
 http://www.creativeonestop.com/ with my business partner, Henock.

Issayas: How did you come up with the idea of EriTrip?

Daniel: The initial ideas that sparked the project was a simmering lack of knowledge about Eritrea because I was born in Ethiopia. The sense of being Eritrean was made more evident when my family were displaced in the Ethio-Eritrea war in 1998. The self identity question was always a bother when someone asked about Eritrea. The worst times were when I find “non Eritreans that knew more than me” as I work in my family restaurant (Mosob Restaurant in London http://mosob.com/).







Furthermore, visiting Eritrea for the first time as an adult in 2011 strengthened my quest to know more and simplify the journey and experience for others like me. There are a lot of people that were like me, Eritreans that are either born outside the country or left when they were young. Although the trend of the usual visit to Eritrea mainly by the Diaspora can be summed up by Asmara, Massawa, Keren and a quick visit to home village (Adi). Eritrip's aim was to break the cycle to challenge visitors to travel the whole country to truly experience Eritrea.

I then, asked my friend, trusted cousin & business partner (Henock Hailemariam) to help with the work. When Desta Haile, who is our distant cousin saw the plan, in its infancy, she could relate and volunteered to help with writing the content from the notes that were given to her from my journey and more from her own research. She worked tirelessly to make it fun and easy to read. She has done a brilliant job at that. My brother Ben who is a natural born salesman also volunteered to help to promote and sell the project.


The other people who contributed to the project in many ways were: my sisters Selam (who is a web developer and handled the glitches on the website) Jeremy & Henry with proof reading and  Quedest with moral support. Meaza who is my other sister and her husband Yohannes purchased the first copy, before the project was even finished. I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to, Aman, Olga, Haregu, Yosef, Fitzum/Jimi, Lidya, Sara, Ruth, Kass, Jorda, Leo, Medhane and Ambesa. In Eritrea, many thanks to Brikti, Mary & Danait, Feven, Simon, Teddy, Yonas, Tadese, Tesfai, Solomon, Aman, Said, Nebeyu, Ibrahim Qohaito, Tesfai in Ministry of Tourism in Adi Keyeih, Rahwa and Giuseppe for their help and assistance. 

 Issayas: The design and concept of the package are just wonderful. For me, at least, the design and purpose of the package is professional, essential, functional, and more. Am I correct in stating this? Would you tell us more about it?














Daniel: The plan from the start was to make a product that we would be proud off, and be the best among travel guide books. High in quality, in terms of print and the packaging, hence the reason as to why we did the printing in the UK, whereas the plastic cover was custom-made import from China. We followed the rule of three to make the three parts and the starting points are incorporated in the ideas below.




Issayas: What is the next step for EriTrip?

Daniel : Apps

Issayas: Does EriTrip organize trips to Eritrea? If not, do you plan to?

Daniel: No, the plan at the beginning was to only create a guide book but then collaborate with travel agencies and hotels in the future.

Issayas: Do you work with or coordinate with the Ministry of Tourism, travel agents or others in Eritrea? If not, do you plan to?

Daniel: I received fruitful and encouraging words from the Ministry of Tourism. They invited me in while I was in Eritrea and discussed the project at length with some good feedback. Yes in the future we aim to work with travel agencies.

Issayas: Thank you for your time.

Daniel: Thanks.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Conversation with Sara Tracy Meretab

                                    
                                                         The “default” for Eritreans is to help one another.

Issayas: Would you tell us about yourself?

Sara: My name is Sara Tracy Meretab.  I’m currently a Senior at Stanford, graduating in March. I’m majoring in Economics, so I’m interested in business and finance. I grew up in Montclair, New Jersey. My father was born in Asmara and my mother is American.

Issayas: Your video is wonderful.  What can you tell us about it?

Sara: I had so much fun making that video. I took that trip after my freshman year because I told my dad that I wanted to visit Eritrea again. It had been a couple years since my earlier visit, and I felt like there was a lot more value I would get out of the trip now that I was older. I recorded everything. That video is taken from hours and hours of footage! There were two reasons I made the video. The first was to immortalize my trip in my mind—re-watching it always triggers so many warm memories. The second reason was to show the country as I experienced. Both the highlands and the lowlands are beautiful in different ways, and the people have a unique warmth and sense of community. My goal was to convey that spirit in the video. Watch the video below.

Issayas: You and your fellow Eritrean students at Stanford University came to talk to the Adal Tigrinya School in San Jose. You came with the first group. How was your visit ?

Sara: I loved visiting the Adal Tigrinya School. I was so impressed and inspired by the young Eritrean students that I had the opportunity to teach. They’re not your average kids. A 5th grader asked how she could get ahead now so that she could take college courses in high school. A 7th grader took diligent notes on preparation strategies for the SATs. As I stood in front of them, I was in awe of how their parents have worked tirelessly to give them the best opportunities, and engrained a tremendous emphasis on education and a strong work ethic. Those hard working Eritrean kids make me so proud of my heritage. I hope the Adal Tigrinya School continues to grow and strengthen the Eritrean community—I would have loved to have been a part of that growing up!


                                          Eritrean Stanford students Adel (left) and Sara (right) at Adal Tigrinya School.

Issayas: After your first visit to Adal Tigrinya School, you and your fellow Eritrean students at Stanford University decided to start the Stanford-Adal Mentorship Program with the Eritrean high
school students at Adal.  This is a great idea. Do you think this could be a model to other Eritrean communities?

Sara: The Mentorship Program has so much potential in other Eritrean communities around the country. It plays to so many of the strengths that I see in nearly all Eritreans that I meet—hard work, determination, growth and communal support. The “default” for Eritreans is to help one another,
and that is truly special. The network of support for Eritreans could be extremely expansive—middle schoolers mentor elementary school students, high school students mentor middle school students, college students mentor high school students, and young working professional Eritreans mentor college students. We all want to see one another succeed, and as a united community, we have so many resources to help our youth do just that.





                                 Eritrean Stanford students Lewam (left), Eden (center), and Adel (right) at Adal Tigrinya School.

Issayas: You are graduating next quarter, what is your plan?

Sara: When I graduate in March, I plan on taking a couple months to travel. There are many parts of Europe and Africa that I would like to see. I will also be spending some time with my family in Pennsylvania, before returning to San Francisco where I will start working at Visa in August.

                                                           Watch Sara's video below.


                                                       
                                                                  Sara's Gopro video
Issayas: When is your next trip to Eritrea?

Sara: I don’t have a tripped planned to Eritrea..yet! I was considering taking another trip with my father again after I graduate, or perhaps a trip alone. I also promised myself after the last visit that I would be much more comfortable with Tigrinya when I returned—so I’m still working on that!


Issayas: Thank you for your time and congratulations. Of course, we will keep in touch after you've graduated.

Friday, August 7, 2015

From Eritrea's Photo Archives

All photos are courtesy of the Research and Documentation Center, Eritrea

Pictures from the Italian Period (1890-1941)

click on the pictures for larger images

  
Sycamore tree at Mai Wukirti



 


                                
    The construction of Victor Immanuel Park, Asmara.

Assab, Eritrea

Massawa, Eritrea

Keren, Eritrea


Rock painting at Adi Alawti, Qohaito.




Agave harvesting. The fiber of agave is used for housing and the nectar is also used for drinks  such as Tequila.


                                      
Growing sisal agave. The commercial values of the fiber of sisal agave include rope, paper, twine, cloth and carpet.

                                                                              Ila Bered


                                                                       Massawa



 













Palm dum harvesting in Aqordat and Keren. Dum is used to make buttons. In my interview with Emilio De Luigi, he mentioned that he had lived in Agordat for many years and dum is mentioned in his poem about Aqordat. Check out my interview with Emilio on this blog.

For the Ancient Egyptians, like myrrh and incense (check out my interview with Dr. Nate Dominy on this blog on the "Land of Punt"), the seed of the palm dum was considered a sacred and was used for  rituals. Seeds of the palm dum were found in the tombs of many pharaohs including the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen (popularly known as King Tut).

One of the lessons for Eritrea  is to investigate the various scientific researches and data collected by the various Italian  universities during their administration (especially in the field of botany, zoology, and etc.) and explore their commercial applicability today.
                                      

 
  
                           
Merenge Glass Factory Co. and its products. Glass is made from liquid sand and Eritrea has lots of sand. Of course, first, it needs very high temperature!

If my memory serves me right, I was told that, during the British Administration,  three Eritrean glass makers (experts) were taken to Kenya to teach there. I heard the story in a different context, however, anyone with any information on this subject would be very much appreciated!

Below is one of my favorite pictures.