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social and business profile
FOOD & DRINK: Italian cuisine dominates in the restaurants of the larger cities. Massawa is renowed for its excellent seafood, especially prawns and lobster. Staple foods include kitcha, a thin bread made from wheat and injera, a spongy pancake. Local specialities are often very spicy. Drinkdrunk black with a lot of sugar. In some regions coffee is served with : Tea and expresso are ginger or black pepper and sugarjuices (banana, mango and papaya) are available. . Fruit
SHOPPING: Good buys are gold and silver jewellery (sold by weight), woodcarvings, leather items,spears, drums, carpets and wicker goods. In market places a certain amount of bargaining is expected, but prices at shops in towns are usually fixed. Shopping hours: 0800-1300 and 1430-1930 Monday to Saturday (regional variations occur).
SPORT: Swimming: Good facilities on the coast with pleasant water temperatures. The 1000km (625 miles) of beaches are clean and uncrowded. Diving is excellent. Trekking, mountain climbing and fishing can be arranged.
SPECIAL EVENTS: Mid Feb '98 Fenkil, a remenbrance of the last days war was fought to liberate the city of Massawa. May 24 Liberation Day, countrywide celebrations. Early Aug Eritrean Festival- exhibitions, musical shows and dances, a cultural event that lasts about 10 days.
SOCIAL CONVENTIONS: Casual wear is suitable for most places. Visitors should dress modestly, however. Private entertaining tends to be informal. Tipping: Hotels and restaurants add a service charge, usually around 10%. Tipping is fairly common, in small amounts. Taxi drivers are not usually tipped.
ECONOMY: Years of civil war have left Eritrea, which was until 1991 the northernmost province of Ethiopia, with its economy in a parlous condition. There is, moreover, little statistical information about its performance. Agriculture sustains the bulk of the population with indigenous grains, maize, wheat and sorghum as the main crops. Reconstruction of this sector has been hampered by the legacy of the war (damage to land, mines, lack of equipment) and poor rainfall, and the country continues to rely on substantial food aid to ward off starvation. The small industrial economy has also suffered severely: the principal industries, which produce glass, cement, footwear and textiles, are operating well below capacity due to lack of machinery and the wherewithal to repair it. Reconstruction of the economy is by far the most pressing task facing the post-independence government. As well as these existing industries, the government is seeking to develop fishing and mineral industries, and a number of projects have recently got off the ground. There are thought to be significant oil and gas deposits within Eritrea's territorial waters: exploration rights have been granted by the Government to several major multi-national oil companies which have begun surveying the area (which may lie behind the occupation of Greater Hanish - see above). ritrea's short-term prospects depend on substantial aid and foreign investment, which has, after an initially slow response, started to flow in: the Government's liberal trade and economic policies have been deliberately tailored to attract overseas financial support. The requirements are huge: recent estimates suggest that anything up to US$2 billion may be needed. The International Development Association, the Italian government and most recently the Paris Club of official creditors (mostly banks) have provided low-interest loans linked to development and reconstruction projects. The Eritreans have signed a series of agreements with neighbouring Ethiopia to assist free trade and movement of labour; a free port has been created at Assab for the use of Ethiopia (which lost its coastline with Eritrean independence). Eritrea has been granted admission to the ACP group of Third World countries which receive preferential access to certain European Union markets. As of July 1994, it has been a member of the International Monetary Fund.
BUSINESS: Local business people tend to speak English or Italian. A knowledge of French can also be useful. Business cards are not always exchanged. May-October is best for business visits. Office hours: 0800-1200 and 1400-1700 Monday to Friday; 0800-1200 Saturday. In other towns hours may vary slightly.
COMMERCIAL INFORMATION: The following organisation can offer advice: Asmara Chamber of Commerce, PO Box 856, Asmara. Tel: (1) 121 388. Fax: (1) 120 138.