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HARAR (1850m altitude)

Harar located in south Eastern Ethiopia about 526 kms from Addis Ababa, has recently registered by UNESCO as World heritage site.
Harar is among those cities in Africa that enjoy a mild climate throughout the year.
The well-known 19TH century traveler, Sir Richard Burton, who was the first European visitor to enter what he called "forbidden city " left us a vivid memorable ten days in Harar. In his own words " Harar is not hot, cool but not cold" quoting a description of heaven-favored city, according to a Persian poet. He also compares it with the climate of the Italian city of Tuscany. Butchlozer(101,1955) a traveler who visited a century after Burton, has this to say about the natural beauty of Harar; It doesn't matter you go there when the coffee bushes are in flower and the air is heavy with their strong bitter scent, or when the ripe fruit of the Orange trees glow in the sunlight, it is always lovely in Harar; there is always something blooming, always being harvested.
At least seven settlements are mentioned as the precursors of Harar according to a popular legend. These were esshkanti gai (gai means "city" or "settlement").
Fereka gai, harawe gai. Hassen gai; Ruhuk gai; Sammti gai; and Tuhkungai. All this sites are now awaiting archaeological excavation to tell their stories, except Hasseb gai wich still keeps the name north Harar. These settlements resolved their enmity and agreed to establish their center in Harar. This center had fertile soil with abundant water to establish a sustainable agriculture system: it was also a healthier location, being free from the common tropical diseases, such as malaria, which are rampant in surrounding lowland.

There are many legends related to the foundation of the city. However, shakih Abadir, “the patron Saint" comes first when the name of Harar is mentioned. He is said comes with his entourage in the tenth century from Arabia. It is believed that he was the one who organized the administrative system of the city and also gave Harar its name. With its numerous mosques and shrines, Harar is considered the "fourth holy city of Islam" after Mecca, Mediana and Jerusalem. Perched on a gentle hill, drained by network of rivers, Harar is an ancient walled city. It was founded a millennium ago, between the seventh and ninth AD, by a Semitic- speaking people.
The agricultural system of Harar was effective and efficient. Using terracing and irrigation as well as intercropping which is useful for tropical soil and a symbolically correct practice, the harar farmers were able to produce grain and cash crops in adequate supplies for local consumption and export. It is also considered as the original cultivation center of the world famous coffee Arabica and the mild stimulant leaf called (cath edulis). Both are lucrative export items, which provide the Ethiopian economy with substantial financial resources.
Harar was not dependent exclusively on agriculture, but also benefited from caravan trade, since it was geographically a half way house of extensive trade between the
Red Sea, the Indian Ocean littoral and the vast Ethiopian hinterland .To facilitate the international trade of those days; Harar had to mint its own coinage. In the whole of Ethiopian Region, it was the second center after Axum to produce coins since at least the Middle Age on. Harar also played a role bridge between the old Akumite coins and the modern ones since the first coins of Menlik were struck in Harar. This broad and stable economic base helped Harar to become one of the leading center of learning in the horn of Africa and to develop a unique urban culture uninterrupted through the centuries.
The shift of the capital city of the Adal State from Deker, an old settlement, to the city of Harar in 1520 brought about the heyday of Harar. The new capital becomes the springboard for Imam Ahmed Gragn, to incorporate to the Horn of Africa. However, the leading role of Harar did not last long. After the wars of Gragn, Harar was exposed to frequent attack from different sides. Nur, the nephew of Imam Ahmed Gragn, built the remarkable defensive wall popularly known as jugal. This wall warmly engulf the city which is confined within 48 hectares and 362 narrow lanes. The circumference of the wall 3,348 meters; with five traditional gates.
These five gates demarcate the administrative as well as the socio-zones of the old city. Jugal gives a sense of direction and belonging to Harar. This wall, therefore, defines the major cultural texture of holistic fabric of the Harar. Without it, the native feels as if the link with social and cultural environment is missing. The social system is governed by gai a da the culture of Harar Communicated through a unique language which is a mixture of Cushtic and Semitic languages known as gai sinan, the language of the city. The hala mahal etiquette, of the city is a binding force to enhance urban culture. After its heyday as the center of the mighty Adal state, Harar gradually declined and become a small city- state ruled by the dawoodi dynasty from 1647 to 1875. The occupying force of Egypt interrupted the rule of the dynasty between 1875-1885. The closed gates to European travelers were wide open during the Egyptians occupation. Rhmbaud, Paulischke (1888) and many other came to Harar. The last Amir, Abudullahi, took over the mantle power for less than 2 years, but was defeated by Menelik at the Battle of Chelenqo in 1887.
Thereafter, Harar was incorporated into greater Ethiopia, which was then in the process of formation. Although it lost its independence, Harar remained one of the most important economic emporia of the new empire ofthe new empire of Emperor
Menelik. The occupation of Harar is considered one of the major turning point for the success of Menelik against his rival powers, both internal and external. In fact, "it would be impossible to write the history of Modern Ethiopia without reference to Harar".

Addis Ababa, the present capital of Ethiopia, which was established at the time of the Battle of Chelenqo, benefited from Harar experience. Surveyors, masons, bookkeeper, peace keepers called yaradda zebegn, tailors and similar professionals who were beckoned to Addis Ababa, contributed and disseminated their skills in the building of the national preparation of the famous Battle of Adawa of 1896. Just before the coming of the Italian Fascist invasion and occupation of the 193, two journalist, Waugh [1934] and Frago[1935] visited Harar. Both of them were impressed with cultural life of the city. Cerulli [1936 and 1971] who was first class
Italian scholar of Semitic studies joined the invading army and administered Harar for sometimes. His books are still the best reference work on the history of city. As the result of the invasion, Harar expanded greatly and is now quite often referred to as "the great Harar." The Italian destroyed the northern farmland and established their administration headquarters called Butega without affecting the old walled city. Within a walking distance one can easily transcend space and time to pass from a medieval pre-industrial realty to modern city. The old city, with its traditional rectangular stone house, winding narrow lanes, abundance of mosques and shrines as land marks, perpetually enchants its visitors as well as its residents; in contrast, the modern quarter is characterized by wide asphalt roads and concrete buildings.
Currently, Harar is one of the nine national of states of Federal State, encompasses about 400 sq. Km. With a population of more than 120, 000 is ready to encounter the twenty first-century with self assured strides to fulfill its responsibility of integrated development in all sphere of life. The age old metropolitan Harar has already achieved impressive results in various fields of activities. This old city which claims more than a millennium of history is happy to share its mystic knowledge and is ready to learn from others.
Moving from a macro to micro view of the city reveals an abundance of aesthetic traditions that echo this beauty. Many compound had courtyard with green plants, pots, benches and that sense of peace and order in a small space which is so often characteristic of traditional Islamic life according to the observation of Henz. The Harari house reveals a sense of proportion and mastery of building technology, perfected over the centuries, that is both warm and inviting. Inside the house, on the walls of the living room, one is overwhelmed by the balance and color composition of the display of baskets. The colorful dress of Harari women is anther dimension of the aesthetic beauty that permeates Harari life. Indeed, Harar the jewel of east, has earned many names; ‘Abadir,' Medinet al Awlia's, ‘Jebel al Awlias', ‘ the fourth Muslim City', ‘The Timbukutu of the East" and many others. Still, it radiates as a historical, cultural as well as social peg which should be reserved for posterity without affecting new innovative trends. The maze narrow lanes and the unforgettable colorful market scenes, added to the uniquely structured houses, give the city the touch of a living museum. The recent conservation attempt is encouraging, but it is not enough. In conclusion, this is a glimpse of the beauty of the walled city. A mountain top view of Harar reveals a mosaic of diverse scenery. One sees great natural beauty in contrast to the beauty of the human built environment. The colors are remarkable. Outside the city walls the lush green foliage with meandering steams reminds one of Persian carpets. The prolific writer on Ethiopian affairs, Henze, compares this beauty with an illustration of medieval manuscript. In contrast, inside the old wall the colors and shapes change, one sees primarily whites and grays and diverse ranging of geometric shapes of varying sizes. The hill on which the old city resists is a constantly changing organic form, shaped and reshaped by the hands of masons for over a millennium.

Famous of its ancient buildings, its great city walls and gates, narrow streets, mosques, its colorful markets and it’s gaily clad women, its finely wrought filigree silver handcrafted & basketry and Hyna man, Harar is of the highlights of a visit to other Historical Ethiopia.


DIRE DAWA   (1162m altitude)

Dire Dawa is 55kms from Harar. Unlike Harer it has very different character, while Harar preaches at the top, Dire Dawa lies at the foot of the escarpment & the climate is considerably warmer and drier. Dire Dawa was founded very recently in 1900 as a result of the advent of the railway, which reaches the point in 1902 and stayed that way for some years before finally completing its journey to Addis Ababa. It is one of the 2nd populous towns in Ethiopia with more than 100,000 inhabitants. The old part of the town is made of twisting streets and Arab-Style houses with Somali women in black velvet, their face covered with purple veils. The new quarter presents quite a contrast, with its tree-shaded boulevards; trim modern houses, factories and its new multistory hotels and a fine hospital.
These attractions can be vested after on anticipation of Harar.

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