'Harar' is a city of peace while the 'Harari' people of love! Harar was founded in the 7th century some 525 km away from Addis Ababa and reached its climax during the 16th century as the capital of the Adal Muslim State. It is one of the rarest cities in the world for holding dual UNESCO titles: the world heritage status and peace prize city for being a home to the three grand religions: the Muslim, the Orthodox and Catholic and never in history have their differences caused any religious conflicts.
Harar had an inherent power of attracting tourists starting from the second Islamic Hijira to the land of Habesha by Abdir's envoy up to the visit of British Orientalist Richard Burton. Today, the influx of tourists to it is growing year by year. Many literates considered it to be the fourth holiest Islamic city of the world after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem with 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century and 102 shrines.
Last week, as a member of a group of journalists, I had stood a chance to visit Harar, a town in the eastern part of the country, for the first time. Right after alighting from the vehicles that transported us there the Hararis welcomed us with jeweled scarfs on our necks. The scarfs had a writing with bold letters that reads; "Our love goes to animals too." We all know that the domestic animals only have amicability with man. This miraculous fact sank in as I looked at the most deadly wild animals— the hyenas there adore sitting together with their adoptive men to have dinner. The strange incident was very strange to most of us visitors from the ministry of education and journalists like me. But few minutes later we, in turn, sat mixed with the hyenas group. The hyenas feeding ceremony is very impressing that one need not miss while in Harar. To attend it is simply loving the wildlife.
According to the journal published by the Culture and Tourism Burearu of Harari Poeple State, since its foundation, Harar’s 72 successive Amirs had managed to fruitfully establish independent states and effective governments until the 1887 conquest. Throughout the state's existence these Harari Amirs had stamped their architectural and artisan fingerprints endowing Harar with a great member of heritages; Mosques, Shrines, historical sites, cultural attractions and others.
Jugal, one of the ten world heritage sites of Ethiopia was built by the great hero Amir Nur Mujahid in (1551-1559) of Harar. The wall was built for defensive purpose against the invasion of the enemy. According to some litterateurs it is believed to cover total circumference of 3334 meters, 12 feet height and about an area of 48 hectares. It has five entrance gates and 24 watching towers. But only two of them and more than 359 narrow streets and numerous cultural houses have surfed the tide of time.
Besides, two of the five gates Badri bari and Asmadin bari that are maintained and reconstructed by the Italians and Egyptians have made Jugal bear a marc international architectural beauty.
The Hararis are well known for different types of handicrafts. They produce jewelry, wooden products ,cravings of stones, weaving, basketry, among others. The handcrafts market is found almost in every shops and market centers throughout the City. Harari women are also well known for producing wall decorations.
It was eight years before Medina Harar accepted Islam. That made the Harari people the first society to believe Alah true to the teachings of Prophet Mohammad. The 82 mosques found in Jugal, the Islamic education system and the bounded book found in Harar, the large concentration of scholars (Awlyaach)there are some of the live evidences that support this conclusion.
Harar known to its inhabitants as Gey. It was formerly the capital of Hararghe and now the capital of the modern Harari People State. The city is located on a hilltop in the eastern extension of the Ethiopian Highlands at an elevation of 1,885 meters. Based on figures from the Central Statistics Agency in 2005, Harar had an estimated total population of 122,000. But, today the number may be high due to the fast urbanization process throughout the country.
For centuries, Harar has been a major commercial center linked by the long distance trade routes with the rest of Ethiopia, the entire Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the outside world. It is the cradle land of long distance trade in Ethiopia.
Harar Jugal the old walled city was included in the world heritage list in 2006 by UNESCO in recognition of its cultural heritage. It is known among Arabs "the City of Saints" ("Madinat al-Awilya"). The structure of the cultural houses and old buildings and the view of the city strengths this claim. Harar looks like the old cities of the Arabs. It stands for Ethiopian Timbuktu. Our driver Abdurahman also told me that there is a legend that says “The Arab world has deep love for Harar. “
The Fath Madinat Harar records that the cleric Abadir Umar Ar Rida and several other religious leaders had settled in Harar around circa 612H (1216 AD). Later Harar was made the new capital of the Adal Sultanate in 1520 by the Sultan Abu Bakr Ibn Mahammad. And saw a political decline during the ensuing Emirate of Harar, only regaining some significance in the Khedivate of Egypt period basically to get alert on the Blue Nile. The Ottoman Turkey and Germany had also strong relations during the reign of Lij Iyasu with their center in Harar.
The city began experiencing a decline during the Abyssinian rule while maintaining a certain cultural prestige being a tourism hub. Today, it is the seat of the Harari ethno-political division - the Harari People State.
The Hararis are cordial and sociable. They have a friendly bent,a virtue many admire. The hyenas, the view of Hakim's Mountain, the Muslims, the Christians, the Jewelries ... make strangers immediately fall in love with Gey (Harar).
If someone wants to realize how life could feel easy, there is no need for hesitation in moving to Harar. The communal way of life, the true Ethiopian hospitality and love are there regardless of who you are and where you are from. Wow Wow... Harar and the Hararis!
BY HAFTU GEBREZGABIHER