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Newsflash 21 August 2011: coming soon: Santa Barbara from Honduras

   Walled city of Harrar  Est 3




Haraar (var. Harrar, Hārer, Harer; Somali: Adari ) is situated in the Eastern Part of Ethiopia about 54 Kilometers from Diredawa and about 500 Kilometers from Addis Ababa. The city is located on a hilltop, in the eastern extension of the Ethiopian highlands with an elevation of 1885 meters.


For centuries, Harar has been a major commercial centre, linked by the trade routes with the rest of Ethiopia, the entire Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and, through its ports, the outside world.

Harar Jugol has been included in the World Heritage List in 2006 by UNESCO in recognition of its cultural heritage.  According to UNESCO, it is "considered 'the fourth holy city' of Islam" with 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century, and 102 shrines.

Harar is also famous for its distinctive, natural processed coffees which bear the same name.






Ethiopian Market


The inhabitants of Harar represent several different Afro-Asiatic-speaking ethnic groups, both Muslim and Christian, including Oromo, Somali, Amhara, Gurage, Tigray, and others. Nevertheless, within the walled city, the indigenous Harari are predominant. The Harari, who refer to themselves as Gey 'Usu ("People of the City") are a Semitic-speaking people once thought to be descended from an Aksumite military outpost. Today, they are most commonly classed as a social and cultural unit rather than as a distinct ethnic group since most families have intermingled with the neighboring peoples, and were welcoming of foreigners into their community. Their language, Harari, constitutes a Semitic pocket in a predominantly Cushitic-speaking region. Originally written in the Arabic script, the Harari language has recently converted to the Ge'ez alphabet.





Harrar House



Immaculately & completely restored to period. Built as wedding present to Eutermarks daughter Lucy, it was originally assigned 913 West Fourth Street, but the bride changed it to 915 thinking it unlucky. 915 West Fourth Street, Millionaires' Row



The old medieval walled city of Harar

- a city of mosques, minarets, and markets, a centre of Muslim learning, a city which once struck its own local currency, and still has its own unique language - has long been regarded by the outside world as a city of mystery and romance. The principal road to the Old City leads past the main hotel - the Ras - the Military Academy, and various other buildings, including a small modern shopping centre selling all sorts of wares.


The walls of Harar were pierced in early times by five gates, a number supposed to symbolize the Five Pillars of Islam. These gates, known to the Hararis as bari, were situated respectively to the north, east, south-east, south, and west of the city. Each had its own distinctive name, and provided entry and egress to caravans traveling to and from different stretches of the surrounding country.




Each of these gates thus played a different role in the economy of the city and of neighboring lands. The northern gate, for example, was known as the Assum Bari, because it was used by traders importing assu, or pepper and salt, from the Gulf of Aden coast of Africa; while the eastern gate was called the Argob Bari because it served merchants handling the lucrative trade from Argobba, one of Ethiopia's inland regions.

The gates of Harar

 in olden days were strongly guarded, and were strictly closed at night - for no one was allowed to enter or leave the city during the long hours of darkness. Strangers wishing to enter Harar in daytime had first to deposit their spears, guns and other arms with the city's guards, who would look after them scrupulously, and return them when their owners were ready to leave. The walls had, however, a number of holes placed to allow the drainage of water and sewage and to enable hyenas, who constituted the principal garbage collectors, to enter the settlement at night and leave it before the break of dawn.


Tomoca Coffee shop in Adis Ababa

The subsequent integration of Harar into the greater Ethiopian realm led to the construction, in the twentieth century, of two additional gates. To the west, the Shewa gate, so called because it afforded access to the important Ethiopian province of that name; and also the Berbere Bari, called after Ethiopia's hot peppery spice which seems to have been handled in the area. The first of these gates is today by far the most used, for it links the Old and New Towns, while the Berbere Bari has long since been closed.

The city is well known for its superb handicrafts that include woven textiles, basket ware, silverware and handsomely bound books, and Harar has been a place of pilgrimage from all over the world for many years. This walled city is thought to be Ethiopia's tourist centre of the future.





Harar was established by Sultan Abu Beker Mohammed in 1520. Harar, the Holy City of Ethiopia's Muslim community, is believed to be the forth-holiest city after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. The old City Wall of Harar is the main attraction and symbol of Islamic architecture. Harar has approximately 90 mosques, which form the largest concentration of mosques in the world. One of Harar's main attractions is the hyena man who feeds hyenas on the outskirts of the town every night.

Harar is known for its turmoil and bloodshed. Ahmed Gragn killed Abu Beker Mohammed who was the ruler of Harar. Ahmed Gragn was a militant Muslim leader and used Harar as his base to launch his jihad and raids against the Ethiopian Christian Empire in 1528. He destroyed many churches and threatened the complete distruction of Ethiopian Christendom. He was killed by Emperor Gelawdewos in a Battle near Lake Tana in 1543. The raids continued against the Christians led by Ahmed Gragn's widow Bati Del Wambara. In 1559, Emperor Gelawdewos marched on Harar with the aim to eradicate the constant religious sectarianism taking place. Gelawdewos was killed in a battle and his head was paraded around the city on a stake.




In 1647

Emir Ali ibn Daud took control the city and established an autonomous administration. Despite the continuous fighting with Oromo tribes, Harar expanded; it became well populated, an important city for trade and a centre of Muslim scholarship. It issued its own currency. After 250 years of autonomous rule, Egypt occupied Harar and killed the Emir in 1875. The Egyptian action created a strong resistance in the Muslim community of Harar. Emir Abdullah took control and led a campaign against the Egyptians, which ended in 1885.

In 1887, Harar lost its autonomy when Menelik, Prince of Shewa, who later became Emperor of Ethiopia in 1889, waged war against the army of Emir Abdullah. Menelik defeated the Emir at the Battle of Chelenko in 1887. Menelik then established a new administration, including several members of the emir's family to prevent renewed religious sectarianism, headed by Ras Mekonnen, the father of Emperor Haile Selassie.

Harar then began to disintegrate and lost its status as a trade centre in the end of nineteenth century when the railway line was built between Addis Ababa and Djibouti through Dire Dawa. From 1902, Dire Dawa became the main commercial centre of Ethiopia.



Carrying Water


However, Harar remained as the spiritual City of Ethiopia's Muslim community, the political capital of Hararge Province until 1994 and has become a federal city-state (or kilil ) in its own right.  since 1995.and its environs became an Ethiopian region




Ethiopian coffee ceremony


Ethiopia's coffee ceremony is an integral part of their social and cultural life. An invitation to attend a coffee ceremony is considered a mark of friendship or respect and is an excellent example of Ethiopian hospitality. Performing the ceremony is almost obligatory in the presence of a visitor, whatever the time of day. Don't be in a hurry though - this special ceremony can take a few hours. So sit back and enjoy because it is most definitely not instant.




Ethiopian homage to coffee is sometimes ornate, and always beautifully ceremonial. The ceremony is usually conducted by one young woman, dressed in the traditional Ethiopian costume of a white dress with coloured woven borders. The long involved process starts with the ceremonial apparatus being arranged upon a bed of long scented grasses. The roasting of the coffee beans is done in a flat pan over a tiny charcoal stove, the pungent smell mingling with the heady scent of incense that is always burned during the ceremony. The lady who is conducting the ceremony gently washes a handful of coffee beans on the heated pan, then stirs and shakes the husks away.

  When the coffee beans have turned black and shining and the aromatic oil is coaxed out of them, they are ground by a pestle and a long handled mortar.


The ground coffee is slowly stirred into the black clay coffee pot locally known as

'jebena', which is round at the bottom with a straw lid. Due to the archaic method used by Ethiopians, the ground result can be called anything but even, so the coffee is strained through a fine sieve several times. The youngest child is then sent out to announce when it is to be served and stands ready to bring a cup of coffee first to the eldest in the room and then to the others, connecting all the generations. The lady finally serves the coffee in tiny china cups to her family, friends and neighbours who have waited and watched the procedure for the past half-hour.


  Gracefully pouring a thin golden stream of coffee into each little cup from a height of one foot without an interruption requires years of practice.


Coffee is taken with plenty of sugar (or in the countryside, salt) but no milk and is generally accompanied by lavish praise for its flavour and skilful preparation. Often it is complemented by a traditional snack food, such as popcorn, peanuts or cooked barley.


In most parts of Ethiopia, the coffee ceremony takes place three times a day - in the morning, at noon and in the evening. It is the main social event within the village and a time to discuss the community, politics, life and about who did what with whom.


  If invited into a home to take part, remember - it is impolite to retire until you have consumed at least three cups, as the third round is considered to bestow a blessing. Transformation of the spirit is said to take place during the coffee ceremony through the completion of 'Abol' (the first round), 'Tona' (second round) and 'Baraka' (third round).


You'll find that each region's coffee will taste slightly different, according to the growing conditions. Kaffa's forested hillsides, at 1,500 feet, provide larger trees to protect the coffee plants from the harsh sun. Harar is renowned for its longberry variety with its distinctive wine-like flavour and sharp acidic edge. And Sidamo's beans, known as Yirgacheffes, have an unusual flavour. The coffee Arabica strain is Ethiopia's original bean and the only one still grown and drunk there today. It does not have the excessive pungency or acidity of the neighbouring Kenyan brands and is much closer in character to the related Mocha variety of Yemen. The composition of its delicate and strong flavour can be lost if it is high roasted.


According to national folklore, the origin of coffee is firmly rooted in Ethiopia's history. Their most popular legend concerns the goat herder from Kaffa, where the plants still grow wild in the forest hills. After discovering his goats to be excited, almost dancing on their hind legs, he noticed a few mangled branches of the coffee plant which was hung with bright red berries. He tried the berries himself and rushed home to his wife who told him that he must tell the monks. The monks tossed the sinful drug into the flames, an action soon to be followed by the smell we are all so familiar with now. They crushed the beans, raked them out of the fire, and distilled the stimulating substance in boiling water. Within minutes the monastery filled with the heavenly aroma of roasting beans, and the other monks gathered to investigate. After sitting up all night, they found a renewed energy to their holy devotions. The rest, as they say, is history.



Coffee holds a sacred place in their country -just the growing and picking process of coffee involves over 12 million Ethiopians and produces over two-thirds of the country's earnings. The best Ethiopian coffee may be compared with the finest coffee in the world, and premium washed Arabica beans fetch some of the highest prices on the world market. In a world where time has long become a commodity, the Ethiopian coffee ceremony takes us back to a time when value was given to conversation and human relations. Perhaps an ancient proverb best describes the place of coffee in Ethiopian life, "Buna dabo naw", which when translated means "Coffee is our bread!"







Hyena-Men Performance

Seeing the Hyena Man communicate on some level with unpredictable wild hyenas.


The Story
I've heard of some strange things in my travels, but feeding wild hyenas by hand is one of the strangest. We are in Harar, an old eastern Ethiopian city with a long checkered history, much of it violent and non-Western, so this hyena feeding somehow seems to fit into this unique place.

We have an NTO (National Tourist Office) driver/guide, Sebsebe. The Institute in Addis Ababa thought it wiser to have an NTO escort, as there is ethnic fighting in the area and some resentment towards outsiders, or farengi, which we so obviously are. Sebsebe organized for a local guide, Abdul, to take us around Harar.

On our first evening we visit the Hyena Man before dinner. They drive us outside one of the old gates in the stone walls enclosing the Old Town. Here the Hyena Man feeds the hyenas at night in a dusty open area. He's dressed in tattered clothes, his dark-skinned face blending into the darkness. Next to him is a large sack.

"In that sack are rejected pieces of meat and bones from the butcher," Abdul tells us.

Sebsebe stops the car, leaving the headlights on, allowing us to see quite well. The Hyena Man starts calling a wild, high-pitched chant, and one-by-one the hyenas come, slinking down the hills.

First come two hyenas, their red eyes glowing in the headlights. They circle at a distance, and two more come, then three. The chanting continues until there are about 20 - all the size of a large heavy dog - with strong jaws and characteristic sloping shoulders. They come a bit closer and we can see them, spotted unattractive heads with small ears, salivating at the sight and smell of the meat. They really are one of nature's ugliest animals.

Some make an excited yipping noise while others start "laughing". A hyena's "laugh" is an eerie, primitive sound, and we step a bit closer to the car.


The Hyena Man draws out some scraps of meat, which he flings into the dark. There's a flurry of rushing bodies. He throws some small bones and we hear cracking, gnawing sounds.

Three or four of the creatures come much closer. "They are more familiar with him and he can feed those by hand," Abdul whispers. The Hyena Man loops a piece of meat around the end of a long stick. One hyena runs forward and pulls on the meat. We stand close to the car, taking photograph, impressed in spite of ourselves.




Then he holds out a bone, about 12 inches long, and one of the hyenas grabs it ferociously and runs off. All of the "familiar" ones get a bone in this way. "He doesn't actually hold out his hand now as he lost one of his fingers recently," Abdul informs us. Is this man brave or foolish for feeding these unpredictable beasts, or is he just out to make a living?

This amazing spectacle started years ago after some small children and donkeys were apparently killed and dragged off by hyenas. The people decided to partially feed the hyenas outside the walls so they don't come into town ravenously hungry and ready to attack animals or children. It's a strange "night show", but we're impressed anyway, partly because it tells us more about Harar and Ethiopia.

When the sack is emptied, the hyenas retreat to the darkness just beyond the light and Abdul gives the Hyena Man some Ethiopian birr notes. He bobs his head briefly, picks up the sack, and walks off into the dark.


According to legend, the hyenas were fed by the inhabitants of Harar to calm down the animals in good times, so that in times of drought they would not attack people or livestock. Today, the hyena men of Harar make a living by feeding wild hyenas for the benefit of tourists and some curious local people.

Taming Ethiopia's hyenas 

By Mohammed Adow

BBC, Ethiopia


I Seyyid Abdiweli Abdishakur, a traditional leader who also doubles up as a farmer and a pastoralist, has made a mark within his community by achieving what many men dread to even attempt.


He has trained a hyena to look after his livestock and four hawks to guard his grain farms from destructive birds.

The Hyena and Hawk man lives in the small town of Qabri Bayah about 50 kilometres from Jigjiga town the headquarters of the Somali region in eastern Ethiopia.

When I visited him in his house, he was busy tending crops at his green garden - a rare sight in this arid neighbourhood.

A group of young men were playing with the male hyena, which seemed to enjoy all the action.

Near the hyena and without any fear, were four cows.

The hyena looked so much at home and even licked oil from the head of one of Seyyid Abdishakur's herders.

They have fondly named the hyena "Ali".

Cash savings

I asked Seyyid Abdishakur what led him to tame the hyena and hawks.

"I have a herd of about 370 goats and hyenas have been regularly attacking my herd. Then I hatched this plan of taming the animal and I got this one at the age of two and brought him home," he said.

Mr Abdishakur says he knew hyenas do not come to attack anywhere where their offspring are.

"As for the hawks I caught them while they were young and I use them to guard my farms where I plant grain during the rainy season," he said.

Mr Abdishakur says both the hawks and hyena have been of great use to him.

"I have saved the funds which I used to hire extra people to guard my crops against birds and the hyena has become a good shepherd... other hyenas now fear my herd," he said.

This great friendship between the beast and livestock has not come about easily.

Village attraction

Mr Abdishakur says that at first he was forced to hire a vehicle to carry the hyena around whenever his livestock moved to a new location.

This was to prevent "Ali" meeting other hyenas and taking off with them.


For the past four years the hyena has stayed with him and served him well.

Mr Abdishakur says that he has never slaughtered a goat within the sight of the hyena to avoid it seeing the livestock as a source of food.

"I only give him meat from the butcher," he says.

But has he got any fears of the hyena leaving him and going back to the wild?

"Yes, when the Hyena feels the urge to mate, then there is the danger of it leaving in search of a female one. But I have already considered this and I now put certain herbs in its food to reduce its sexual urge," said Mr Abdishakur.

He says that he learnt this from his late father whom he says was knowledgeable on many things.

And he is philosophical about his success in taming the wild animal and birds

"All living things have the same interests," he said.

"Warring Somalis ought to learn a lesson from this. I have brought together hawks, cats, chicken, cattle, goats and a hyena who are all sworn enemies and they are all living harmoniously in one place. It's time Somalis reflected and thought of their interests and stopped feuding."

Mr Abdishakur has also kept the hawks separated in huge cages fearing that they will mate and breed.

He says he does not have the financial ability to support any offspring at the moment.

But for now he is the centre of attraction in this village and people from both far and near come to his compound daily to marvel at his rare catch.


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