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No Sign, No Menu: A Safe Space for the Northeast African Diaspora

eritrean art habesha splott

This discreet den at a crossroads in Splott provides a piece of home for Habesha men.

The unassuming exterior could be designed to keep others out of this private lounge where men spend their Sunday afternoons, eating homemade food, playing games and helping each other with job applications. 

They call the space “Habesha”, referring to the culturally and linguistically linked region of Northern Ethiopia that shares its ethnic ties with Eritrea and Sudan.

The hum of Tigrinya, their native language, rises throughout the afternoon and early evening, as more men are welcomed through the doors.

Many have travelled across Europe for months and even years before settling in Cardiff, where they find work in restaurants and warehouses.

“We come here and talk about our daily lives, and news from home,” said Mizgna Beraki, 25. “It’s an interesting time to be from Eritrea,” he said, “The war [between Ethiopia and Eritrea] is now finished, and we are hopeful for the future.”

Eritrea Cardiff Habesha

The Habesha lounge is located on the corner of Diamond and Clifton Streets, in the Splott neighbourhood of Cardiff.

Daniel, from Sudan, plays billiards in the lounge.

Eritrean art hangs on the walls. Pictured above, “Eritrea” written in Tingrinya.

These Sudanese men come to the table to enjoy tea and play the game Fourteen.

Yohanss Gaim, the lounge manager, arrived from Switzerland five months ago.