Welcome to Harar Holy City
Ancient walled city of Harar, was a major commercial centre in the east of Ethiopia for many centuries. This medieval walled city, is a city of mosques, minarets, colorful markets, center of Islam religion in Ethiopia.
Walled city of Harar is considered by many Muslims to be the fourth Holy City, following Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. The city was a ferociously Islam religion center and was forbidden to visitors, until 1887 King Menelik restored central rule.
Harar has a pleasant climate, attractive countryside and is a hassle free place. Harar stands on the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley, the location gives wonderful views of vast Danakil desert to the north, Harar mountains to the west and the plains of Ogaden to the south.
The prime attraction of Harar is the Old Walled city center, you can enter the city by road through Harar Gate and can follow a main road to Feres Magala Square where you'll find a guide.
The road that runs east from the square next to the Church of Mehane Alem leads to Erer Gate which is the site of the Chat Market, along this road is the 16th century domed tomb of Emir Nur, the Harar Museum and the Tourist Office.
If you are walking towards Erer Gate, the road to the right, opposite Misrak Arbegnoch Hospital, will take you to what is allegedly the house of Arthur Rimbaud, a French poet who moved to Harar in 1880. The house has unusual architecture, frescoed ceiling and great views over the town. Ask your guide to show you the inside of a Harari house, these have a unique design with an open ground floor dominated by a carpet-draped raised area where social activity takes place.
Earlier Harar could be reached only by a long caravan journey, now the city is an hour drive from Dire Dawa a modern Ethiopian railway town, with an international airport and several first class hotels. Highway trip from Dire Dawa to Harar, provides a delightful journey with panoramic views. The Ahmar Mountains produce some of the best coffee in Ethiopia.|
Accommodation and dining:
- Belayneh hotel is situated next to the bus terminal, adjacent to the walled city and next to a market, roof top restaurant is excellent spot for street watching, the rooms are basic but clean.
- Lemlem Hotel for budget travellers on the Jijiga Road, has clean self-contained room with a double bed, using common showers.
- Academy Hotel has been recommended for those who want to soak up the atmosphere of being in Harar old town by night.
- Tewodros Hotel does amazing roast chicken.
- Cottage Bar is as cosy as the name suggests and the tape-recorder blares out a remarkably eclectic music collection.
- In the walled city, the Ali Bal Cafeteria does good pastries.
Harar main attraction is Medhane Alem church, built in 19th century, and 16th century Grand Mosque with beautiful twin towers and slender minaret locted on the road to Erer Gate. Harar market is one of the most colourful in all Ethiopia.
On the road from Sauga Gate to main market lies house of Ras Mekonin where emperor Haile Selassie spent most of his childhood.
The hyena man of Harar, as darkness falls over the ancient walled city of Harar, local people and tourists make their way to the outskirts of the city to see a bizarre spectacle. Hyena man calls out to the 40 wild hyenas which inhabit the forests surrounding the city, the hyena man loudly makes sounds combination of his own hyena dialect, hyenas have excellent memories and will seek revenge on humans that harm them.
He starts calling out to the hyenas by name,
watching a hyena man perform is not for the faint hearted, the man calls out to the other hyenas to come forward and slowly almost obediently. He then places the pieces of raw meat in his mouth, the hyenas advance towards him and snatch the meat from his mouth with their large teeth, before scuttling back a few feet.
Man is fearless and claims that there is no danger involved in being mouth to mouth with these wild scavengers, he have never felt scared.
There is no danger unless you are scared, as the hyenas sense fear.
The origin of feeding the hyenas date back to the great famine, according to legend, the hyenas were fed by the inhabitants of Harar to appease the animals, so that in times of drought they would not attack people or livestock.