Regarded to as the fourth holiest city in Islam, the old city of Harar is home to an incredible 99 mosques and shrines, representing the 99 names of Allah known to man. It is believed that Sheikh Abadir Umar ar-Rida, the Arab Muslim cleric patron of the city of Harar, is responsible for the Islamic demographic of this ancient city.
It all started in 1216, when the Sheikh travelled to Harar from the Arabian Peninsula, married a Harari woman and constructed the city’s Jamia mosque.
Known for its famous array of markets, the famous Hyena Men, ancient paintings and artefacts spanning all cultures, it's easy to get lost in the never-ending maze of the winding streets of Harar.
Things to do
Visit the Harar Jugol wall
Believed to be built somewhere between the 13th and 16th century, this thick, 5 metre high and 3.5km long wall was built as a fortress surrounding the ancient city.
This fascinating wall once had five gates: Shoa Gate, Buda Gate, Sanga Gate, Erer Gate and Fallana Gate, each providing five pathways into five different quarters of the city.
Still intact, the Jugol wall has become an icon of the city.
Feed some Hyenas
Harar is most famous for its Hyena Man. Feeding hyenas is actually a thing in this part of town. It all started in the 20th century when the Harari people started feeding the local hyenas to stop them from decimating their livestock. Consequently, these large, grizzled hyenas stopped searching for their own food and started coming into the city to get their red meat from the local hyena man.
A whole century has since passed, but this tradition continues as the hyenas still come out at night to be fed by the local people.
1.5 kilometres to the East of the Erer Gate and around a few winding corners, the hyena man sits a large dusty open space. Though he doesn’t speak much English, give him a 100-birr tip, and he'll show you how to feed the hyenas.
Visit the Sherif Harar City Museum
One of the most decorated museums in the city of Harar, The Sherif Harar City Museum is a must-see.
Believed to have hosted the honeymoon of Haile Selassie and his wife Menen Asfaw, the Sherif Harar city museum is filled with jewellery, coins, weaponry, textiles and old manuscripts collected from across the region, including Amhara, Gurage, Oromo, Somali and Argoba.
This cultural museum was opened in December 2008 and was founded by Mr. Abdullah Ali Sherif (also named after him). Mr. Sherif and his family are also the current curators of the museum.
The Arthur Rimbaud Museum
Right in the heart of this mystic city is the Arthur Rimbaud Museum. Dedicated to the famous French poet Arthur Rimbaud, known for his influence on modern literature, this articulate museum is filled with beautiful photos, all telling a different story.
Most of the prints found in the museum were taken by Arthur Rimbaud. The French poet who lived here from 1884-1891 and is believed to have a close friendship with the Governor of Harar, Ras Mekonnen Wolde Mikael.
Filled with crazy marketplaces, Harar won't disappoint for an afternoon spend window shopping. Check out the spice market, recycling market, Shoa Gate market and the famous Erer Gate, Harar justifies its place as one of the region’s major commercial centres.
From livestock to electronics, cultural dresses to herbs and spices, Harar’s marketplaces are an afternoon well spent - wandering the stalls, buying a few souvenirs, and generally soaking up the electric atmosphere.
Don’t leave without having the famous Harar Coffee
Harar is known for some of the best coffees Ethiopia has to offer.
There are a variety of different beans to try, and you won't be able to escape the coffee ceremonies.
And remember, having anything less than 3 cups is said to bring bad luck to the household – respect the tradition, as long as it’s not close to bedtime!
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