Keren Eritrea (3) - Mariam Dearit
Two kilometer out of Keren is the shrine of St. Mariam Dearit, a statue of
the Virgin Mary that has its residence inside a trunk of an ancient baobab tree
out in the open field, over 500 years old and 75 feet high. The statue is believed to have powers of
healing. It is also believed to mark the spot from which fertility springs. Local women brew coffee in the shade of the tree and believe they have been blessed fertility-wise if a passing
traveler accepts a cup.
On May 29th every year, there is a pilgrimage to, and a cultural, spiritual
and family event at the site. Ten thousands of people from all over Eritrea flock to Keren to enjoy the
celebrations and congregate. To attend the prayers, the procession of the statue
of the Virgin Mary around the baobab tree and to to dance and sing
In 1869, a group of French nuns known as 'deqi feqri' [Daughters of Charity] opened an orphanage in
the Keren area where Abune Tuovier,
a French priest, granted them a piece of land to grow orchards. The French Lazarists sent a bronze statute of the Virgin Mary to the
sisters. The nuns located a huge Baobab tree and curved a shrine in its trunk. After blessing the statue of the Virgin Mary, they
set her in the shrine. The orchards that the sisters planted still stand.
In World War II, according to legend, a group of Italian soldiers, who were under attack from British planes
took refuge inside the shrine to avoid bombing. It is believed that a bomb struck the trunk of the
Baobab tree and landed between the soldiers but the bomb didn't explode and
the soldiers survived. The hole can still be witnessed on the walls of the trunk.
St. Mariam Dearit's shrine in Keren, built into a huge
"Take of your sandals, for the place where
you are standing is holy ground."
Traditionally dressed Bilen woman dancing at the festival of Mariam Dearit.
The entrance to the compound of the sanctuary of Mariam Dearit.
This is a traditional dwelling in Keren (Tukul).
A round hut with a cone shaped straw roof.
Ministry of local government Anseba region Keren (2000).
Stadium of Keren
Monument for the martyrs of the 1961-91 liberation struggle,
from where you have an excellent view over this part of Keren.
Cattle on the streets of Keren.
Livestock market in Keren (on Mondays).
The children of Keren.
More pictures of Keren
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