The old walled city of Harar was founded sometime between the 7th and 11th centuries and quickly grew to be an important Arab trading post. It is sometimes called the fourth holy city of Islam, after Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem; it has 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century.
Harar was first an independent sultanate, then an emirate, for hundreds of years. For a decade in the late 1800s the area was under Egyptian rule before being incorporated into Menelik II’s expanding Ethiopian empire in 1887.
Harar is colorful and lively. It has quite a different feel from Addis Ababa. The clothing, architecture, decoration, and way of life are much more Arabic.
The French poet Rimbaud lived in Harar during the Egyptian occupation. He worked there as a coffee trader, having given up the poetry business some years before. At the Arthur Rimbaud Cultural Center we saw many photos he took of life in the city – he was the first person to photograph Harar.
One popular attraction in Harar is the hyena man. After sunset, he calls the wild hyenas to him and feeds them raw meat. He invites onlookers to join him – which of course we did.