The walled city of Harar & its surrounds

  • This city was founded over 1,000 years ago, and lies just off the southern edge of the Chercher Mountains at an altitude of 1870kms. It is situated some 515kms from Addis Ababa at the center of a fertile agricultural area renowned for its high quality coffee. H
  • arar was controlled by the legendary Ahmed Ibn Ibrahim (Gragn: the left handed) in 1527 and decades of war against the Christian kingdom was followed during which the resource of the city was depleted.
  • Gragn wa The walled city of Harar & its surrounds s finally defeated near Lake Tana with the assistance of Portuguese force under De Gama. A defensive wall was constructed around the city with gates to protect it from other possible threats.
  • Harar was conquered again and fall under Egyptian rule and then by the Christian highlanders under Menelik the second and fall under the governor ship of Ras Mekonen. Ras Tafari (Emperor Haile Silasse, the last Solomonic line of rulers) the son of Ras Mekonen was born in Harar.
  • It is considered by some Muslims to be the 4th holiest city in the world after Mecca & Medina. It holds very special significance for Ethiopia’s Muslim population.
  • It is one of the most pleasant, friendly and lively cities of Ethiopia. The modern town posses a surprising mood of religious and cultural tolerance.

What to see

The walled city of Jegol

It lies at the center of the city and it is the oldest part of the city.

  • It remains strongly Muslim in character –its 90 old mosques are said to form the largest concentration of such shrines in the world.
  • It covers an area of about 60ha and supports an estimated population of 24000 living in Jegol. Jegol is fenced by 5m high wall that effectively defined the full extent of old Harar until the Italian occupation in 1930s.
  • Jegol built in 1560 by Sultan Nur the wall hasn’t changed shape significantly since that time. It has seven traditional gates: Harar, Showa, Buda, Sanga, Erer,Felana) lying along the walls 3.5km circumference,

Hyena Feeding

The walled city of Harar & its surrounds

One of the city’s most enduringly popular attractions is its resident spotted hyena and Hyena Feeding. Hyena Man, who, as evening falls, sets himself up at the outskirts of the city. He makes his living by laying on a remarkable show, feeding meat, offal and bones to packs or wild hyenas that come down from the surrounding hills, apparently answering to names which the Hyena man chants hypnotically. Exactly how and when the practice of hyena feeding arose is an open question. .

The colorful old market and the people

Harar’s ethnically diverse population is made up of Hararis, the indigenous highland Ethiopian people of the region, Argoba, Oromo, Amhara and Somali speakers from the plains.

  • This cultural diversity is best seen expressed in the old market at the centre of the city where tall, graceful maidens in long, glowing, extravagantly colored dressed come to barter and buy amongst the elegant Moorish archways- a scene that has changed little since the eccentric French poet, Rimbaud, lived in Harar in the 19th century
  • Other places of interest for tourists include Tomb of emir Nur, Jami mosque, Harar museum and Cultural center, Ras Mekonen Palace, and Rimbaud’s house.

Possible excursion from Harar includes Valley of Marvel: Midway between Harar and Jigjiga, near the town of Babile (a site of hot springs) a deep valley is entered, known locally as the ‘the Valley of Marvel’. These are area of unusual volcanic formations of tall columns of black rock, weathered and twisted, stands topped by loose precariously balanced boulders.

Aweday and Alemaya are situated along the Dire Dawa road. Aweday is renowned as the site of the country’s largest chat market. Alemaya is of interest mainly for the eponymous lake that flanks Dire Dawa road on its northern outskirts. When full the lake supports considerable concentration of greater and lesser flamingos and many other water birds.

Ejerse Goro

lies some 25kms north east of Harar and is known mainly as eh birth place of Ras Tafari Mekonen (the former emperor Haile Silassie I).


The walled city of Harar & its surrounds

Is situated some 17kms south east of Harar. The Village of Koremi is reputedly is one of the oldest settlements in this part of Ethiopia. It is also believed to have been established before the old town of Harar.

Dire Dawa

This impressively large city sprang into existence in 1902 when the railway builders, advancing inland from the coast.

The open markets around Kefira provide opportunities of exploring Oromo and Somali people with their camels and local products for exchange.

In the ‘railway town’ bright jacarandas and flamboyant line the wide avenues, The ‘Chemin de Fer’ or railway station is Dire Dawa’s most attractive feature. Although the original steam engines have long since been replaced by diesels, the trains running between Dire Dawa and Addis Ababa still have a wild, pioneering atmosphere.

Only 32 kilometers from Dire Dawa are 2500 year old rock paintings of Lega Oda. This rarely visited site has now become much more accessible by road, and provides a fascinating glimpse of the ancient people who lived in and painted their cave with oxen and wild animals.