Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Conversation with Daniel Abbay: Graphic Designer and Restaurateur

Issayas: Would you tell us about yourself?

Daniel: I was born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia in April 1974, to Eritrean parents. As a child I was fortunate enough to travel the world, got a lot of exposure to different countries and looked at travel guide books because my father worked for Ethiopian Airlines. My mother is a special woman who to this day is the rock on my side who introduced us to business and entrepreneurship from a very young age. I attribute all of what I have done to them.

I left Ethiopia when I was 12 years old to Kenya during the Mengistu (the Derg) era as my parents were worried about the situation. Then, from there we moved to the UK when I turned 15. Life in the UK was tough and it was only me and my brother, Ben, who was 17. We were refugees with no supporting adult. All of this was to strengthen my character and carry on to study and gain a diploma at one of the the best art college in the UK - Central Saint Martins. I then studied graphics design for a year then later switched to Engineering Product Design and gained my first degree.

I have worked for myself as a freelance graphic designer on contract. We have been active in other business ventures such as setting up a restaurant since my mother came to England to escape the 98 situation.

Currently, I manage the restaurant full-time, design & amp;business consultancy at Creativeonestop with my business partner, Henock.

Issayas: How did you come up with the idea of EriTrip?

Daniel: The initial ideas that sparked the project was a simmering lack of knowledge about Eritrea because I was born in Ethiopia. The sense of being Eritrean was made more evident when my family were displaced in the Ethio-Eritrea war in 1998. The self identity question was always a bother when someone asked about Eritrea. The worst times were when I find “non Eritreans that knew more than me” as I work in my family restaurant (Mosob Restaurant in London

Furthermore, visiting Eritrea for the first time as an adult in 2011 strengthened my quest to know more and simplify the journey and experience for others like me. There are a lot of people that were like me, Eritreans that are either born outside the country or left when they were young. Although the trend of the usual visit to Eritrea mainly by the Diaspora can be summed up by Asmara, Massawa, Keren and a quick visit to home village (Adi). Eritrip's aim was to break the cycle to challenge visitors to travel the whole country to truly experience Eritrea.

I then, asked my friend, trusted cousin & business partner (Henock Hailemariam) to help with the work. When Desta Haile, who is our distant cousin saw the plan, in its infancy, she could relate and volunteered to help with writing the content from the notes that were given to her from my journey and more from her own research. She worked tirelessly to make it fun and easy to read. She has done a brilliant job at that. My brother Ben who is a natural born salesman also volunteered to help to promote and sell the project.

The other people who contributed to the project in many ways were: my sisters Selam (who is a web developer and handled the glitches on the website) Jeremy & Henry with proof reading and  Quedest with moral support. Meaza who is my other sister and her husband Yohannes purchased the first copy, before the project was even finished. I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to, Aman, Olga, Haregu, Yosef, Fitzum/Jimi, Lidya, Sara, Ruth, Kass, Jorda, Leo, Medhane and Ambesa. In Eritrea, many thanks to Brikti, Mary & Danait, Feven, Simon, Teddy, Yonas, Tadese, Tesfai, Solomon, Aman, Said, Nebeyu, Ibrahim Qohaito, Tesfai in Ministry of Tourism in Adi Keyeih, Rahwa and Giuseppe for their help and assistance. 

 Issayas: The design and concept of the package are just wonderful. For me, at least, the design and purpose of the package is professional, essential, functional, and more. Am I correct in stating this? Would you tell us more about it?

Daniel: The plan from the start was to make a product that we would be proud off, and be the best among travel guide books. High in quality, in terms of print and the packaging, hence the reason as to why we did the printing in the UK, whereas the plastic cover was custom-made import from China. We followed the rule of three to make the three parts and the starting points are incorporated in the ideas below.

Issayas: What is the next step for EriTrip?

Daniel : Apps

Issayas: Does EriTrip organize trips to Eritrea? If not, do you plan to?

Daniel: No, the plan at the beginning was to only create a guide book but then collaborate with travel agencies and hotels in the future.

Issayas: Do you work with or coordinate with the Ministry of Tourism, travel agents or others in Eritrea? If not, do you plan to?

Daniel: I received fruitful and encouraging words from the Ministry of Tourism. They invited me in while I was in Eritrea and discussed the project at length with some good feedback. Yes in the future we aim to work with travel agencies.

Issayas: Thank you for your time.

Daniel: Thanks.