Reaching The Ancient City Of Harar

 In Dr Anne Small

What better way to finish off a tour through Ethiopia than explore the hundreds of tiny alleyways of Harar – turning 1012 years old this year! Dr Anne Small, of Moonee Ponds MindBody Health Centre, marvels at this World Heritage-Listed city and its peaceful people in her latest blog …

Today we flew from Lalibela to Dire Dawa, which is the second largest city in Ethiopia. We stayed only to see the train station from where the thrice weekly train goes to Djibouti and then we drove straight to Harar.

It was rather like being in Melbourne – we arrived in 36 degree heat and after 30 minutes of driving up the mountain, it was soaking rain with hailstones!

The next day we had a full day walking tour of part of the new town and most of the old town. Harar has about 200,000 people and was awarded the UNESCO prize for peace – as the Christians and Muslims live side by side in peace.

We saw this clearly in the old town of about 7,000 people where there are ‘compounds’ – areas behind gates off narrow cobbled streets where typically 4 to 7 families live in separate houses, but in the same walled area. These families can be Coptic Christian, Muslim or Catholic. Most of the Muslims live in the old town and there are 82 mosques (three dating back to the 10th Century), one Coptic Christian church and one Catholic church.

Everyone in Ethiopia drinks bottled water because the mineral content of their water makes people sick and hence there are hundreds of large and small bottles everywhere.

We walked through the very narrow streets lined with women selling fruit and vegetables and through the spice market.

Some of the people carry amazingly heavy loads on their heads.

The old town is a walled city where he Muslims lived until they were conquered by the Christians, who allowed them to stay in the city. The wall is 3.3 kms in circumference and has 5 main gates. There are also gates for the hyenas, which come into the city at night to eat/clean up the rubbish.

One of the highlights of Harar is the proximity of the wild spotted hyenas, and we even saw a few in the evening as we navigated to streets.

Next – Uganda and the mountain gorillas – very exciting!

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