The walled city of Harer, a vibrant ever growing eastern pearl of Ethiopia is a point of attraction for both the local people and increasing number of foreign visitors for its rich history, innumerable treasures and unique cultural values.
The city which known to be the fourth biggest Islamic center in the world after Mecca, Medina and Palestine was officially formed in the year 1520 when an Emir by the name Abu Bekr Muhammed moved his capital from Dakar to this spot. Being an important Muslim center for its 99 mosques which are located in the wall, its old age tradition of book binding that attracts Persians and Mediterranean countries, the everyday phenomena of the hyena feeding tragedy and more made the city to be a UNESCO registered city.
The wall which fenced the former city was built in the year 1560 by Emir Nur to halt the then migration of the Oromo people and preventing the city from any non Muslim intruders.
The city is also a good place to learn how people of different religions and custom live in coexistence. The Adere being the indigenous people of the area, it is normal to see the Oromo and Amhara people living in harmony with each other with all differences.
As a Muslim sultanate the city was not accessible for foreigners in its hay days until the British explorer Richard Burton managed to get in resembling an Arab visitor in the year 1855 learning all the traditions of a Muslim community in the neighboring Yemen.
The other famous foreigner strongly associated to the city of Harer is the famous French poet Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud who made a very far away trip from France to Yemen the then Aden via Cyprus to work with Bardey’s and Co as supervisor for selection of coffee. Shortly Arthur was transferred to the branch store of the same company based in Harer. For ten years from this period he was traveling between Harer and Yemen on foot, horseback either alone or with caravans. He was speaking fluently Arabic and other local languages and was much more merged and associated to the local people. Today visitors will be shown a site where his residence existed and a museum on the same site depicts some of his poems and pictures.
The last king of Ethiopia, Emperor Haile selassie has also spent his childhood in this walled city locally called “Jegol” and his honeymoon residence still is open for visitors. The king has also ruled Harer and the surrounding former eastern administrative region as governor of the territory before assuming power as the King of Ethiopia.
The other most striking activity in the walled city is feeding hyenas with bare hands. Wild hyenas are seen being good companions of the local people in Harer every evening in different sites of the city. The tradition starts some period back where there was a severe famine in Harer and surroundings that forced the hyenas to get into the walled city and dine on human beings causing a big concern and casualty among the people. The solution from the local people was to provide meals for hyenas on daily bases. After the famine people want to commemorate the time and have a tradition of serving locally made porridge minced with butter and they call this festival Ashura.
During the Ashura festival you see the people on open-air field near by the Abobker shrine and a huge number of hyenas come to feed from the well prepared meal. Visiting Harer which is located 525 Kms from Addis is possible at any time of the year but visiting Harer during this season will add color to your visit.
Ashura festival is scheduled on
10th October in 2016
30th September in 2017 &
19th September in 2018.
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