When we got back to the house, there was not much else to do except go to sleep. I had two options. Either I could go into the air conditioned play room for the girls and sleep among their Barbie dolls or go up on the roof. The rain clouds had cleared and the starry sky looked too inviting, so I grabbed a Karimat, a thin sheet and clambered up onto the roof of the portocabin.
Around me Massawa was still awake and I wondered whether I was going to get any sleep. I made my bedroom up there, lying out the bed, and setting down a torch and book next to the bed. I took a good look around. The first thing which grabbed my attention was the noise from the other side of the causeway. My eyes led along the well lit road to a bunch of large buildings on the far side. One of these was an open air cinema where they were showing a Bond film. I can’t remember which one, but Roger Moore was starring in it. Every so often, I could hear a blast of music or gun fire from here, and a great roar from the crowd inside. Then it would go quiet again. I looked to the south west where the oil terminal was. A blaze of lights flickered across the bay. To the far south; nothing, the darkness of three hundred miles of desert came back to meet me. Aseb is the second largest city in Eritrea, along that coast line, but Chris told me that few people travel along the coast to get there. The road is tarmacced to the bottom of the bay I could see in front of me. Then it becomes a dusty track which links a few small fishing villages. Then the road is purely a desert route, not well marked and without any habitation. It can take three days of travel before you hit Aseb itself. Aseb is linked to the rest of the civilised world by the Red Sea and a road that leads straight up into the Ethiopian Highlands.
To the east, I looked out over the rooftops of Massawa. The usual night noises could be heard; dogs barking, children crying, mothers calling. The situation was the same looking north, but beyond the houses the dazzling floodlights of the port and a few ships lights could be seen amongst the others.
I settled down, covered myself uselessly in the sheet and reached for my book. As I rested my head back on the pillow I looked up, and realised that this was the one direction I hadn’t bothered with, and was simply the best. The Milky Way zigzagged across the sky and several planets twinkled around. And the more I looked, (and tried to shelter my eyes from the earthly light sources) the more stars could I see.
It was difficult to think that I could sleep with 007 saving the world behind my head and this amazing vista straight above, but then the culmination of an early start, a long journey, followed by the snorkelling and beach walk, made me very tired and I was away within minutes.