The historic fortified town of Harar is located in eastern Ethiopia, 525 km from Addis Ababa, on a plateau with deep gorges surrounded by deserts and savannah. It is a rare example of a relatively well preserved historic town that has retained its traditions, urban fabric, and rich Harari Muslim cultural heritage to the present time. It is one of the holy towns of Islam in Africa, considered “the fourth holy city” of Islam, and the capital of a minority region within Christian Ethiopia. The historic city is physically limited and well defined by its 16th century surrounding walls which were built between the 13th and 16th centuries and served as a protective barrier.
Harar was founded between the 7th and the 11th century, emerging as the centre of Islamic culture and religion in the Horn of Africa. During the Middle Ages, Harar was part of the Kingdom of Adal. In 1520, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Adal, under Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad. During the sixteenth century, which is thought of as the Golden Age of Harar, the local culture grew, with many poets living and writing in the city.
Harar also became known for coffee, weaving, basketry, and bookbinding.
In the sixteenth century, a war of conquest was launched from Harar by Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi. Following the death of his successor, Emir Nur, Harar’s wealth and power began to decline. The city was later ruled by Imam Muhammed Jasa, who then abandoned it in 1577 due to Oromo attacks. Harar regained independence under Ali ibn Da’ud, and was then later ruled by the Egyptians from 1875 – 1884.
In 1995, Harar and its surroundings became a region in Ethiopia – the Harari region The first domesticated coffee plant is also said to have come from Harar.
Harar contains 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century, 102 shrines and a number of traditional, Indian and combined townhouses with unique interior designs, which constitute a spectacular part of Harar's cultural heritage. The present urban layout follows the 16th century design for an Islamic town with its central core occupied with commercial and religious buildings and a maze of narrow alleyways with imposing facades.
In 2006, Harar was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site to highlight its unique and exceptional architecture, which captures the African and Islamic culture of its habitants.
For centuries, Harar has been a major commercial centre, linked by trade routes with the rest of Ethiopia, the entire Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and, through its ports, the outside world.
This is a good place to wander at leisure, taking in the atmosphere of this ancient city. Feres Magala Square in the centre of town is full of mosques and shrines. There is also a market, where people from many different tribes can be seen trading with one another.
A long-standing tradition of feeding meat to spotted hyenas also evolved during the 1960s into an impressive night show for tourists.
Baregota Tour and Travel would be happy to arrange a visit for you to this fascinating city.