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Eritrean Marriage: A 1968 Article By Ahmad Haj Ali

Last week the Awate Team published a report entitled, “Eritrea 2014: Isaias Afwerki & His Musical Chair.” The report carried the following entry for Ahmed Haj Ali:

ARRESTED. Served as Minister of Tourism and later Minister of Energy and Mining. He was employed in that capacity until 2013 when he, along with Abdella Jaber and Mustapha Nurhussein (former governor of the South Zone) was arrested for his alleged role in Forto 2013, the attempt to take over the Ministry of Information and demand democratic changes.

To date, the whereabouts of Minister Ahmed is not known.

In his high school years in Keren Secondary School, Ahmed was one of the brightest students. After graduation, he left for Addis Ababa and then traveled to the Soviet Union for higher education. Thereafter, he joined the EPLF and remained a dedicated and active member until 1991. In 1993, he raised the PFDJ flag as Eritrea’s first ambassador to the UN.

Though Ahmed was born and raised in Keren, a gentleman who just split from the Isaias regime last year insinuated that he was less Eritrean. The gentleman expressed his seemingly apprehensive feeling that Eritrea’s flag at the UN was first raised, “by Wed-arbaAa”, a term used by nativists when they feel like depreciating the Eritrean citizenship of someone they don’t like based on archaic and primordial traditions. The remark angered a lot of Eritreans, particularly Kerenites who know Ahmed as one of them: a bona fide Eritrean who served his country with dedication.

The following is an article by Ahmed Haj Ali that appeared in 1968 on “Outloook” magazine which was published at “Atzie Dawit Secondary School” (Keren Secondary School).

At the time, the Ethiopian authorities’ directives dictated that Eritrea as a country, and Eritrean, as a nationality should not appear in the magazine. Thus, in Ahmed’s article, any mention to “Eritrea” was substituted by “Ethiopia”. Thus, the title of Ahmed’s article carried “Ethiopian Marriage…” which, if not for the censorship, it would have appeared as “Eritrean Marriage.”

For more information, refer to the first edition of this series here.


Ethiopian Marriage, Earlier Times and Nowadays
By Amed Haj Ali (10A)

In the earlier times, marriage in Eritrea was not troublesome. It was simple, but with much celebration.

The girl’s family was to be paid a certain amount. This was not in money. The amount was usually five quintals of grain and about four cows. This was paid by the husband’s parents to the girl’s parents. The parents of the girl were to buy all the clothes and furniture needed by the girl.

Because of these things, sharing of expenses, the husband was always in good financial condition. Thus the adolescents were very anxious to marry, and many were married at the early age of fifteen.

The celebrations lasted for fifteen days. These days were full of songs, dances and games. In the mornings they used to play games, but in the evenings they sang folk songs. Nearly all men, old and young, took part in the dancing and singing times.

This was the custom of the earlier days. It is still carried out in the villages with few modifications.

Nowadays, marriage is something which is hated by most Eritrean males. The least amount of money now required for a good marriage is about $1000 [Ethiopian Birr] to be paid for by the husband. Where does these money go?

Firstly, the man has to pay a certain amount of money called Maher (dowry) to the parents of the bride. Besides, he is expected to bring her expensive clothes and golden ornaments.

During the days of the marriage, he must provide food for the visiting people. This may go on up to seven days. In the last days, he must bring food, sweets, soft drinks, etc. for those who are present during the celebration.

If we try to calculate this expense, it will not be less than $1000. We tend to agree with those who prefer not to get married because it is such a great expense on the husband and his family.


 

Again, just like Melaake Tecle and the others, Ahmed was also a blogger long before blogging was invented.

The most fascinating contribution I found in Outlook is the over six-pages long general knowledge information compiled by Hassen Ferej to help the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. That information surely helped many students prepare for the general examination that students took in 6th and 8th grade.

Today, in a time that students take google or local libraries for granted, Hassen’s work was  an extraordinary help for those who had to study for the exams.

Here is a sample of the type of information that Hassen compiled: 1) The biggest fresh water late is Lake Superior, USA, 31, 820 sq. mi. 2) The first woman to fly the Atlantic was Amelia Earhart, in 1961. 3) William Horsche found the planet Uranus in 1930 4) Tuberclosis is known as the White Plague. 5) Normal heart beats 75 time per minute…..

Hassen compiled about 350 such entries, some are considered trivial those days and students do not have to know them to pass their tests. But certainly, education has deteriorated to the extent that in the USA, “No child left behind” is leaving every child behind!

The copy of Outlook magazine that I have contains the following articles which I try to present in subsequent Negarit editions in the coming weeks:

  1. The man Who Stood On Top Of The world (By Hassen Ferej, 10C)
  2. Confidence (Kaleab Negussie (class not given)
  3. Gandhi, 1869 – 1948 (Writer’s name not given)
  4. A Mission To Earth (Awate 11B)
  5. What Is The Duty Of A Student (Mathewos Hgaos 11B)
  6. …For The Keren Secondary School (Bahlebi Weldense 10A)
  7. Why Do Students Fail In The E.S.L.C.E.? (Hussein Abubaker 11A)
  8. Are You A Good Listner? (Elias Mehreteab 10A)
  9. Catholic Seminary (Mesghinna Yassin (11B)
  10. History of Addis Ababa Bank (Decan Ucbalidet 10B)
  11. How Pride Leads to Misery And [poverty (Abdelkerim Mohammed 10B)

NB: anyone who knows the whereabouts of the persons on the list, please send me their facebook pages or their pictures.

About Saleh "Gadi" Johar

Born and raised in Keren, Eritrea, now a US citizen residing in California, Mr. Saleh “Gadi” Johar is founder and publisher of awate.com. Author of Miriam was Here, Of Kings and Bandits, and Simply Echoes. Saleh is acclaimed for his wealth of experience and knowledge in the history and politics of the Horn of Africa. A prominent public speaker and a researcher specializing on the Horn of Africa, he has given many distinguished lectures and participated in numerous seminars and conferences around the world. Activism Awate.com was founded by Saleh “Gadi” Johar and is administered by the Awate Team and a group of volunteers who serve as the website’s advisory committee. The mission of awate.com is to provide Eritreans and friends of Eritrea with information that is hidden by the Eritrean regime and its surrogates; to provide a platform for information dissemination and opinion sharing; to inspire Eritreans, to embolden them into taking action, and finally, to lay the groundwork for reconciliation whose pillars are the truth. Miriam Was Here This book that was launched on August 16, 2013, is based on true stories; in writing it, Saleh has interviewed dozens of victims and eye-witnesses of Human trafficking, Eritrea, human rights, forced labor.and researched hundreds of pages of materials. The novel describes the ordeal of a nation, its youth, women and parents. It focuses on violation of human rights of the citizens and a country whose youth have become victims of slave labor, human trafficking, hostage taking, and human organ harvesting--all a result of bad governance. The main character of the story is Miriam, a young Eritrean woman; her father Zerom Bahta Hadgembes, a veteran of the struggle who resides in America and her childhood friend Senay who wanted to marry her but ended up being conscripted. Kings and Bandits Saleh “Gadi” Johar tells a powerful story that is never told: that many "child warriors" to whom we are asked to offer sympathies befitting helpless victims and hostages are actually premature adults who have made a conscious decision to stand up against brutality and oppression, and actually deserve our admiration. And that many of those whom we instinctively feel sympathetic towards, like the Ethiopian king Emperor Haile Sellassie, were actually world-class tyrants whose transgressions would normally be cases in the World Court. Simply Echoes A collection of romantic, political observations and travel poems; a reflection of the euphoric years that followed Eritrean Independence in 1991.

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