Coffee was ‘invented’ here in Ethiopia and you can see how they produce it for export for free here in Harar. Nure is a coffee company you can stop in for a brief tour. It only takes minutes. They have their old equipment and modern day roasters inside. The staff will happily explain the process of making the coffee, from picking, to roasting, grinding and packaging for shipping all over the world. You can even by a kilo of wonderful spiced coffee for $5.
How does it taste? Smooth as silk and I don’t even normally like coffee. I gave my Mum a kilo and she loved it. She has been drinking coffee from across the world for over 60 years and delcared this the best coffee in the world.
They are open Mon-Sat during normal business hours.
Of the 6 main gates giving access to the walled city, Harar Gate, is the one through which enter in the city; it is the most recent one, as it has been built in the 1970’s on a destroyed part of the walls; the wall was destroyed at that place top give access to cars, trucks, etc, to the main road of the city, leading from that gate to the horses market ((Feres Magala Square). It is not a very spectacular gate, and the old gates, if not as lively are more spectacular, like Buda Gate (gate of witchdoctors) picture 1); notice the pavement is new there.
Sanga Gate (cattle market) has not anymore its arches, and if you do not see cattle, there are also donkeys, goats, etc. . . passing the wall at this place (picture 2).
Walking around the city has been made very easy by the renovation works, as the street following the wall circling the city have been newly paved, like here between Erer gate and Fallana Gate (picture 3).
On picture 4 you can see Harar Gate from the main street and a view from Harar Gate down the main street to Feres Magala Square is shown on picture 5, with the cathedral in the background.
What is spectacular here is that life never sops here, there are people 24 hours a day, and the market is active from 6 am to late at night, with vendors replacing the ones who move. . . . Choa Gate is the most interesting gate to visit in Harar (forget Fallana Gate and the hyenas)
When you look at picture 1, you can understand that walls have been demolished in some places, to give way to modern vehicles. . . . . On the gate, the Amharic inscription say, Gate of Victory.
Next to that gate outside the walls and in the street ending at this gate inside the city, a very lively market takes place almost round the clock; there are of course khat vendors (picture 2) early morning, to meet the needs of workers and drivers (?) who begin early morning. . . .
You pass the gate and you are plunged in a vegetable market, like probably 300-500 years ago. . . (picture 3), and it is really a crowded place (picture 4).
And if you come back at night, you will see khat vendors again, for those who need it for their night (in)activities (picture 5).
One of the first things Menelik II did when he took over Harar and integrated it to the Ethiopian Empire, was to destroy the Great Mosque and replace it by an Orthodox church: Mehdane Alem was built in 1887. Except for masses, this church seems closed, but you can walk around and get an idea of the strength of the local’s faith.
Colours, again (picture 1), where the painted walls match well with the wood carvings; it is, like many Ethiopian churches, an octagonal building, but the numbers of pillars is not following usual rules; here are 24 pillars (picture 2), instead of 12 (apostles!). Buildings for priest or monks (picture 3) recall you, you are in a holy place, and it is very common to see people praying, pay their respects to the saints, wishing, hoping, praying. . . in front of a door (picture 4), a pillar. . . in somehow “oriental”, Muslim style. The foreign visitor must not forget he is in a Muslim area, and if he wants to pray, he has better chances to pray in a Christian place, as the entrance to mosques seems reserved to the “faithful”, here; those who do not mind about religion are the birds, who fly from one building to the other, and these birds, sitting on the roof (picture 5) look like if they are waiting the visitors to leave something behind. . . .
There are about 100 mosques in Harar, and where ever you are or look, the probability a mosque in within sight is high! A foreigner cannot visit the mosques here, but at least you can look at them, and in fact the mosques give a charming atmosphere to the city. There are all sorts of mosques, and if some are well visible on the main streets, others are hidden in the corners of some small alley (picture 1), others dominate market places (picture 2).
The minarets of others look like lighthouses; and this one (picture 3), behind a bakery is interesting, as it shows the balcony where the muezzin called for prayer, before modern technology came in with the loudspeakers. . . . there are other minarets of this style (picture 4). Where ever you make a street scene photograph, you will have a mosque on the picture (picture 5), and you will soon notice that the majority of mosques are green, with different types of green; it is the colour of Islam, and the biggest mosque of Harar (Next tip) is carefully maintained in its green colours.
Once you forget a bit you are a foreigner here, and also get relaxed about the crowd pushing you from every sides (keep tightly your belongings, and your bags closed), you really feel plunged back in time when walking up this street, and you can enjoy the local atmosphere. . . and look around you; you may even feel the need for having more eyes in some way. . . so much is to discover. . . . Just look, enjoy, discover! The old houses with the balconies above the street, the pinions of the houses, when you look up; when you look down on the busy street, not only the sewing machines, but also vendors (picture 3), and if you smile at the local beauties, they reward you with a beautiful smile (picture 4); the street is busy, look everywhere, smile, try to communicate with locals, travels are for that too; and again, you cannot avoid more looks at the tailors (picture 5).
The house of Haile Selassie (The Ras Tafari, ruler of Tafari) is a strange building here in Africa, with these Indian woodcarvings above the main door (picture 1); this house belonged before to an Indian trader and now has become the Sherif Harar Museum, a municipal museum, displaying a bit a messy sampling of local art, souvenirs of the recent and older past, coins, old books, household items, manuscripts, etc. . . .
Time of the DERG, the military junta which ruled Ethiopia under Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, after ousting Haile Selassie is recalled by the plaques you see on picture 2; DERG was somehow a communist junta, and a small bust of Lenin (who may have turned in his tomb when learning these guys called themselves communists) (picture 3) recalls he was venerated in Ethiopia for some time (1974-1987). . . . Household items above manuscript Qur’ans, (picture 4), a coin collection, some paintings, historical photographs. . . . all displayed in poorly lit rooms of a small building; the main building, the house of Ras Tafari was under renovation, and one can hope that when the museum will have a much better allure when the displays will take their place in the beautiful house (picture 5).
This is probably one of the most beautiful houses of Harar, but Rimbaud did not live here, as this house has been built after his death! Here too, it is a house built by an Indian trader and thanks to many French sponsors, this house has been renovated recently and it hosts now a small museum, a library, (books about Rimbaud, but also many other books) and a research center about Rimbaud and his time in Ethiopia.
A round mezzanine with a balcony (picture 1) is the most impressive item of this house; the ceilings are painted (îcture 2) and few paintings decorate the walls of the first floor.
Posters, panels, photographs tell about Rimbaud in Harar, and here or there are excerpts of Rimbaud’s poetry; parts of his beautiful poems are here, but it is a bit (no not a bit, really very!) incongruous, as Rimbaud abandoned poesy and decided to live a new life in Africa, and he never (as far as research has found out) wrote a single line of a poem when he left Europe! The poet was another man! He became a bit a geographer (one of his exploration accounts has been published in the French Geographical Society Bulletin) but mostly a trader, including trade of weapons and slaves!
On the ground floor of the building is the library where one of the ladies taking care of the museum gives some explanations of what you will see; if you are a Rimbaud fan, you may be disappointed when you visit this house, but there are also nice views over the city and surroundings (picture 3) from that house which is very well renovated abd looks very nice in its Indian style (picture 4), there is a nice side building where local beauties like to be photographed (picture 5).
Harar is a twin city of Charleville-Mézières, and the birth city of Rimbaud contributed to the renovation of this house and the items displayed in the museum.
Entrance: 19.50 bir
Open 9-12 am and 2-5 pm
If you look at the scarf of the young girl of the first picture, you see the colours of the Ethiopian flag, but you know you are in Harar if you look at the baskets decorating the wall behind her! The colours, shapes, patterns of these baskets are typical Harari, and these are part of the Harar culture; probably because of the displays you find in this cultural centre, it deserves the name of “Cultural centre”.
This centre, you find on the prolongation of the main street, after Feres Megala square, going down Eastward, about 100m, on the left, has been opened recently and is made of two main parts: a small house on the left, after walking up 15 steps of a red-green painted staircase, which displays in three rooms cultural artefacts, and in front of you, behind a nice green garden, a big house where a conference room-community centre has been laid out.
Behind the nicely decorated entrance of the Centre (picture 2), you find a heavily decorated Harari interior (picture 3), with rugs, carpets (take you shoes off), silk cushions, sofas, etc. . . and a guide (basic English) explains you what you see and a bit about Harar history, the meaning of some décor, who lived here in the past. . . . The emirs of Harar did not live here, but some of their “remains” are displayed here, and you also can see a list of the Harar emirs (picture 4). The big house of the back is displayed on picture 5, and on the lower left corner of the picture the inset is the sign you see from the street.
Entrance: 10 bir
Open 9-12 am and 2-5 pm
When you travel in North Africa or the middle east, you often notice that there is some unity (almost uniformity) in the colours of houses and buildings, generally pastel colours; here, in Harar, the colours are bright, various, and this too gives a style and unity to this city! Looking at the houses, or groups of houses in the backstreets may be one of the most enjoyable things to do in that city, and the keen photographer in search of shapes, perspectives, situations. . . . will enjoy a lot just trying to capture the colours he will find in these streets and fill quickly the memory card of his camera;
So, blue and orange in the south east, near Sanga Gate, green and red at the Harari Cultural centre (picture 2), an orange framed door (picture 3) somewhere in the centre, turquoise framed doors (picture 4) not far from “Rimbaud’s house”, another green on a sidestreet of Makina Gigir (picture 5). . . In fact, here is just a small sample of what one can see; walk in the streets, get lost, and you will see a lot!
The side streets of Harar are coloured, and generally very quiet, and there is some poesy (not Rimbaud sensibility) to enjoy there; the colours add to the atmosphere. . . .
During the hot hours of the day, in the shade of the walls, enjoy the quietude, look at the few people passing by (picture 2), follow the bigger streets which are also quiet at tha time, and not watching the traffic, discover new colours (picture 3), or spot some kids playing in a narrow alley (picture 4).
Not only colours, sometimes, the raw stones, or the rough rendering have also their charm in empty streets (picture 5).
Harar is a very easily “walkable” city, and most of it is enjoyed by feet.
The name of one of the busiest streets of Harar (Makina Gigir) comes from the noise of the sewing machine which work here from dawn to night, and it is supposed to express the noise of the machines. . gigi-gigi-gigi. . . . . Women like beautiful coloured, well cut and sewn clothes, but it is the men here, who are the tailors, and along a 200 m long street you will be rocked by the noise of their machines.
The tailors are certainly very skilled, but this does not prevent the customers to check and verify their work (picture 2). On the following pictures are some of the tailors in action; what is beautiful, is not only the workers, but the surroundings, the coloured shops, the beautiful colours of clothes, the general atmosphere in this busy street.
This very easy walk, for about two hours you can walk around the city on a newly paved street (thanks Unesco) lets you discover the gates, the renovated walls, which, if not very impressive, are a nice sight whilst strolling along and give an idea of how Harar was secluded for some centuries.
As there is not a lot of traffic outside the city, people in charge of renovation had the excellent idea not to cut the trees which grew on the old streets (picture 1), and that gives some charm to the walk. . . . Garden are beginning to grow beneath the walls and you can see the materials used for the walls (picture 2), earth here, sealed limestone here, “dry” limestone there. . . . the walls were probably not uniformely built in the past; the various materials and colours are nice.
Keep walking and you see the walls are also parts of houses (picture 3), and there are different construction styles . . . and even if the street is very quiet, you will meet here or there people attending their everyday’s business (picture 4), or just look at some kid entering the walls through a (renovated) “hyena hole”; a hyena hole is a hole in the walls through which hyenas, in the past entered the city at night and were the official street cleaners. . . . nowadays, hyenas are a tourist attraction, at dusk, at one of the gates in the eastern side of the city. . . . . they are fed outside in a very special way. . . ..
The original Great Mosque has been destroyed by Menelik II, but all other mosques survived, and now, the great mosque of Harar is the Jami Mosque, built in the 13th century; non-Muslim cannot visit this mosque which contains the memorial of Gragn, the imam who proclaimed jihad against Christian Ethiopia. . . A high wall, erected some 50 years ago protects this holy place from the view of the unfaithful. . . a pity as it is described as an interesting piece of architecture with its 58 pillars, and the wide yard where the believers gather and pray. . .
So, only outside views of the top of the high parts of the building, surrounded by the green walls (picture 1); if you walk around you only see high walls (picture 2, picture 3), but you notice they are bright green, there are even different types of green; green is the colour of Islam, and people here make sure the colours are bright, and renovate the paints, as you can see on picture 4, when they feel it is time for a new paint. . . . .
Harar, fourth holy city of Islam has changed a lot since Ethiopian take over, in some way. . . . one can drink alcoholic beverages here, there are bars, and. . . there is even a beer brewed here! Ethiopian beers (Except the traditional tej), are lager type beers and, if not always the best on the planet, they are really enjoyable with a meal or at the end of a hot day in a dusty atmosphere.
Harar beer is a very decent lager, which fits quite well with the injera (the local fermented bread) and a fat lamb’s stew. And it is a pleasure to have a good refreshment at lunchtime, and just drinker local beer is a pleasure, specially in a holy city! :)