The Walled City of Harar

The walled city of Harar

Harar, one of the four most sacred centre of the Islamic world is situated on the high edge of the eastern Ethiopian escarpment. This medieval welled city, with its more than 90 mosques and shrines, is considered the fourth most sacred centre of Islam. Established in 1520 by a local chief, Sultan Abu Baker Muhamed, Harar shortly afterwards was besieged and captured by the functional Muslim leader, Ahmed Gragn, who used it as a headquarter from which to launch his devastating Jihad against the Ethiopian Christian kingdom to the west north.

Harar is a great commercial town with many of its citizens involved in trade. The city was also renowned for its handicrafts, sashes in particular. It was for so long a great centre of commerce before Egyptians led by Khedius Ismail seized  the city in 1875 through the ports of Zeila, which came to an end after britians seizure of Egypt in 1882. Harar was temporarily under Britain however withdrew soon and Harar became part of Minlik’s territory after the battle of chalingo in 1887.

The holy city of Harar is Always an important trading centre, the city is famous for its ancient buildings, its great city walls and as a centre of learning Muslim scholarship ( the town has 99 mosques). The city is well known for its superb handicrafts that include woven textiles, basketware, silverware and handsomely bound books, Harar has been a place of pilgrimage from all over the world for many years. Traders operating harar in those days were persons of many nationalities, among them, Frenchs, Italians, Greeks, Americans, and later increasingly Indians. The best known foreigner to reside in the city was, the renowned French poet, Arthur Rimbond, who spent the last years of his life supplying Minlik with rifles, and whose remarkable house adorned with windows of colored glass, still stands on high ground at the centre of the city overlooking the market.

One of the sights of harar is provided by the famous “Hyena Man” who, as evening falls, set themselves up at the points along the outskirts of the city. This men make their living by laying on a remarkable show.

Harar's attractions are:

  • The City Walls: The City Walls, and the narrow streets lined with traditional Harari gegar houses.
  • Rimbaud House: A Fine building traditional house dating from the period when the French poet Rimbaud lived in Harar.
  • The Hyena Man: As evening falls, local men attract wild hyenas to the city in a bizarre spectacle as they bravely feed these dangerous scavengers. The Ethiopian  experience is one that offers something for everyone. Truly, there is no other place on earth quite like it.


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