Hanna Haftu and her friends were looking very ravishing their beauties accentuated by 'kunano’ cultural hairdo,'Tilf' a fancy work dress and jewels and other ornaments. It was the a time of the year when the girls shine at the northern part of Ethiopia on Ashenda.
“It was so amazing that they all look unbelievably beautiful more than any other days,’’ said Adrian Arnold a visitor from Switzerland approached by The Ethiopian Herald. “ I just can’t put my eyes off the ladies for a minute. When you see this one, there is another one and another one on and on and they all look incredibly attractive.’’
On this day one cannot find a girl that is not gorgeous looking. As the Tigrigna saying goes “ Kolea Ashenda Rieka Atetehatse” which literary means 'Do not try to engage an Ashenda girl bewitched by her beauty as all girls glow on Ashenda day.
For Hanna and her friends Ashenda is so precious. They have been making preparation for this darling day for a about a week starting from picking their outfits and fancy dresses to trying, dropping and picking all the jewels and ornaments.
Types of Ashenda Fancy dress includes Tilfi, shifon, bofe, shenshen, zuria, dirbadir cotton-made fancy garments, textiles made from cotton or textiles. This year Tigray Culture and Tourism bureau was promoting ‘Abujedi ‘ a cetecloth (waxed water proof white textile) to reserve ancient culture. Recent research findings have proved that celebrating Ashenda goes 3000 years back. At that time girls used to put on cerecloth to celebrate the day. In cognizance of this fact, Tigray culture and tourism Bureau has set in motion the promotion of 'jedid ' as offical ashenda wear by endorsing models and artists as ambassadors of ashenda to influence others to wear only white cerecloth . However, many have refused to wear the textile and were seen wearing other shifon and cotton textiles instead.
Ashenda girls' make ups ,cosmetics and ornaments includes Kuhli (eyeliner) Shitu ( perfume) Meskel, Astelin and Gobagub (cross and different kinds of necklace), Albo (anklet), Ambar (bracelet) Kelebet (rings) and Ashenda leafs, which they tie on their waist.
Ashenda hairdos include Albaso, Gelbech, Ga1me, Ayni, Game arab, Regtsi eff and many other styles. On the eve the event kicks off hair salons get crowded as all the Tigrian women from all ages, the whole city, would be braided with this kunano styles.
Ashenda leaf is rare in towns as it grows on riversides and it only grows during the rainy seasons, at the time of Ashenda. Since it is found in far off places, it is young male companions that bring to them the leafs. The males also busy themselves in accompanying and guarding the beautiful maiden Ashenda girls. They make slings out of strings as a weapon to protect their neighborhood girls while these song birds chant melodies across the city.
Ashenda leaf also serves as a precursor to the coming of a new year and the departure of rainy days. It is sign of peace and hope. It is a sign where the old years goes out a new year replaces the old ones.
Even if the name Ashenda derived its name from the leaf it is also called Maria or Ayniwari in some parts of Northern Tigrai like Axum and other places. As most of Ethiopian holidays could be traced back to religious origins Ashenda too is based on religious roots which overlaps with cultural events. Christian faithfuls from the Ethiopian Orthodox church fast for 16 days to commemorate the 16 days related with the dormition of Saint Mary.
In Mekelle, Ashenda kicks off on August 23 every year and lasts for three days while in Axum it starts after a week and keeps in motion week long.
Ashenda girls start off their days early in the morning heading to the nearby church to praise Saint Marry with their melodious songs. After they made their prayers they sing beating their drums (Kebero) going door to door to convey their greetings and praises to residents of the town. In return as a reward they collect money on the morrow.
Also Ashenda girls' crew pours out to the streets to cluster around passersby and shower them with praise-packed songs. If the passengers disappoint them refusing to give them money the girls swap to invective songs. Fearing such a dressing down, most passengers willy nilly give away money quickly in order to avoid the acerbic remarks that could be hurled by disappointed Ashenda girls.
The third day is the last day where Ashenda girls gather in the heart of the city and join thousands of similar crews to dance and sing before they part.
Realizing the event's social and economical benefits, starting from the dawning of the Millennium Tigry culture and Tourism Breaue has made Ashenda festivity as official Huge annual carnival and a tourist site at Romanat adebabay’( Romant round about) permanently. Since then, year after year the number of local and foreign tourists is increasing constantly.
This year, more than 50 thousand visitors had quartered in Mekelle for the carnival. According to Kasech Hadush manager of Mekelle Alula Aba Nega international Airport the number of booked domestic flight to Mekelle had broken record in number of passengers category. Additional flights were added on the regular flight schedule starting for August 13 to August 25 .
More than 100 Journalists had also attend and reported the Ashenda festival.
According Dawit Hailu Head of Tigray Culture and Tourism Bureau the bureau is making huge effort to turn this opportunity in to economical benefit for the society. This years' theme of the festival was "Lets ensure our economical benefits by keeping our rich culture."
Hanna Haftu and her friends had taken national preparatory examination this year. They did manage to score good results that allows them a green light to join universities the upcoming academic year. All of them are eagerly waiting for the day which university they are going to join would be announced. As to Hanna, no matter far the university she would join be from Mekle, she would always come for Ashenda.
BY FASICA BERHANE