It’s Friday night and my better-half is on an African-tip. (I am told) We have three options: a gig on the South-Bank is out of the running, as its too cold and far to appreciate; option two, is a stage-production of forbidden attraction in the time of Apartheid – interesting, but perhaps a little early in the weekend to digest; the third, is dining out at an Eritrean restaurant – let’s eat.
Situated snuggly in West London, the Mosob restaurant on the Harrow Road is teaming with activity. Inside this cosy East African oasis, is an inspired interior of style and relaxation; with a host of regulars, as well as international diners, enjoying the exotic menu. According to the family owned eatery, “Mosob is a traditional hand-woven serving table where people will gather to eat together. For us, it captures the communal spirit in which Eritreans share their meals.” Its not too hard to imagine that much quality time is well spent over a meal together. As a result, it comes as no surprise to how warm and engaging the Eritrean people are.
How is it possible?
Whilst waiting for our order, our hosts educate us on the delights of their homeland. They inform us that ‘Asmara’ is the principal city of Eritrea, and challenge us to come up with other nations whose capital begins and ends with the same letter. There are twelve!
Language, culture, and fine architecture all find their way into our conversation. It really is a communal moment: with us eating the traditional way, by tucking into the food with our fingers. Even when not wearing kit, the conversation finds itself gravitating towards the passion of cycling. Ok, on this occasion, perhaps I was wearing a merino-base layer. Eureka! So it occurs to me that I often hear about Eritrea’s love for cycling and decide to get to the bottom of this. Afterall, why arent’ there more African nations involved in the Grand Tours?
Stand up for the Champions
Our hosts, inform us that cycling became popular during the period of Italian occupation and since then has rocketed. In the last African Tour, both Algeria and South-Africa came runners-up to the mighty Eritrea.
We often view the Tours of Qatar and Oman as preludes to the ‘real-season’ of Spring-Classics, but we should not forget that March also heralds the Tours of Africa. Which are every bit as gritty and popular in their own right; drawing huge crowds and where cyclists are considered heroes as much as they are here.
Now Sky, are you going to book some African air-time for us?