Harar – A Colourful City That Demonstrates A True Tradition Of Ethiopia

Africa is becoming more and more of a popular destination for tourists all over the world. It seems that people are attracted by its unique and a bit wild beauty. Ethiopia is one of the leading countries in Africa when it comes to hosting foreigners. That should not be a big surprise as one might think, especially if you consider its rich history and mesmerising nature. The city of Harar is particularly popular among the various travellers lately. And here is why.

harar desert

Ethiopia and Harar – All You Need To Know

The Horn of Africa is a home to many countries but Ethiopia is probably the most beautiful of them – or so the people who have been there are saying. It is hard to say what will impress you more, its rich history or astonishing nature. Ethiopia is a land of differences – on one side you can see the vast deserts, but on the other side, you will be in the middle of dense tropical forests. The Lake Tana gives the country an even more impressive landscape. Although situated near the equator, Ethiopia’s climate is cooler than in other countries. That makes it perfect for travellers who are not used to African temperatures. One of its most beautiful cities, Harar, is located in the eastern part of the country where the temperature is milder.

The best way to reach Harar is by taking a bus from the capital Addis Ababa. Once you are there you can use the local mini busses that are always coloured in white or blue.

Harar kids withh a new ball

History – As Colorful As The City Itself

Harar is one of the oldest cities in Ethiopia which was founded more than three millenniums ago. The legends and ancient chronicles say it was founded by the mysterious people who originated from the Arabian peninsula. Ever since its establishment, Harar has been an important commercial centre with trading routes leading to all parts of Africa and even further. In the 16th century, the city had its Golden Age thus becoming the capital of the Adal Sultanate. During that time, Harar was the centre of art, science, and culture with hundreds of poets and writers living there. But the period of Golden age had to end soon, unfortunately, mostly caused by the wars which tore the entire Sultanate apart. Finally, Harar lost its independence and became a part of Egypt. In the late 19th century it was incorporated in Ethiopia and has remained part of it until today. Nowadays, Harar has kept its position as an important commercial centre but it has also become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the entire country.

harar

What To See in Harar?

Harar is an ancient city and its colourful past is one of its main resources. There are truly many great locations worth seeing but some of them should simply not be missed. Anyway, the best starting point would definitively be the Old Town. It is completely surrounded by thick defensive walls which date back to the 16th century. There are five gates from that period too, plus another one built in the 19th century. The Emir Abdullahi Gate is definitively the most attractive of them but you can check out the nearby Shoa and Buda gates too. The Old Town itself is a true labyrinth of twisting narrow streets so it is easy to get lost. There are more than 80 mosques hidden in these streets and two of them date back to 10th century. You should definitively find the notable Jamie Mosque as well as the impressive Medhane Alem Cathedral. Also, be sure to visit the main square called Feres Magala where you can see local women wearing traditional colourful dresses. The tomb of Sheikh Abadir is another important landmark and most of the tourists usually go to the famous Smugglers’ Market. There you can get anything you can think of – for a right price, of course. These are just some of the major attractions in the city but you will surely have a chance to check out much more yourself.

harar streets

Accommodation In Harar – Not Many Options To Choose From

Harar is a unique place for many reasons, and one of them is that the city does not offer many options when it comes to accommodation for tourists. There are, indeed, several hotels or guest houses, each of which is somewhat modest and does not offer luxury at all. However, the good thing is, you don’t spend a lot of money for lodging either.

For instance, a very good solution for your stay in Harar would be Heritage Plaza Hotel. Once you see its building either in person or in the pictures, you will not find it very attractive. On the contrary, faded rooms are perhaps the first thing that will capture your attention. However, the place has its benefits as well, and one of them is the fact that all the rooms are extremely spacious as well as clean. A piece of advice to all of you who decide to stay in Heritage Plaza Hotel: ask for a room in the back part of the hotel, because you will have a balcony and a beautiful view on the garden.

The most luxurious and sophisticated hotel in the city is called Grand Gato Hotel. It has a decent building and offers 14 different suites to choose from. Each of the suites is spacious, it has a large bathroom as well as a balcony. Travellers will also be surprised by the modern furniture in the room, and by the polite staff, ready to assist with anything one may need.

And perhaps the most polite, interesting and traditional lodging suitable for your stay in Harar would be great Rawda Waber Harari Cultural Guesthouse. It offers warm welcomes to all the visitors and attracts travellers who wish to book accommodation in the heart of the city. All the visitors are welcome to have a wonderful breakfast in a nicely decorated living room. The guesthouse offers 4 rooms, but a not so good thing about Rawda Waber Guesthouse is that the rooms share 2 bathrooms. Hence, should you count for a room with your own bathroom, you should try finding another place for your stay.

However, in case you don’t like any of the above-mentioned lodgings, you may also try other hotels and guesthouses. For example, you can check Winta Hotel, Belayneh Hotel, Twodros Hotel, Wonderland Hotel and Ras Hotel. Or, you can visit Anisa Abdella Guesthouse and Zubeyda Waber Cultural Guesthouse and choose an option that suits you better.

In large, visiting Harrar can be a memorable journey where one will spot different things worth of his attention. But, luxurious lodging is one thing Harrar will surely not offer you. Hence, you can expect a modest, clean but in large, cheap accommodation in this Ethiopian city.

harar guest house

Cuisine in Harar – Restaurants Are An Excellent Solution To Satisfy Everyone’s Appetites

Opposite to the accommodation, the choice of food in Harrar is more than excellent. Aside from the great and tasteful traditional cuisine, the city offers a wide range of places and restaurants suitable for even the highest demands. If you want to eat well while in Harrar, try visiting some of the restaurants in the old part of the city like Fresh Touch Restaurant, or the restaurants that are located in the new town, like Hirut Restaurant. The first one offers international cuisine, and the second one is rather a place with traditional dishes.

When it comes to the traditional meals, it is important to mention injera – soft, spongy bread, served with almost any other dish in Ethiopia. The most famous dish in the country is ‘wot’. Actually, there are several variations of the dish but ‘wot’ always implies ingredients such as vegetables, spices, meat, and sauce. It is served on the top of injera and it is perhaps the most popular lunch or dinner with domestic citizens and tourists.

In case you did not know, Ethiopia is one of the countries where eating with your bare hands is extremely desirable. So, you just tear off a piece of injera, use it to grab some food, and put it directly to your mouth. At first, it may look disgusting, but after a couple of days, you get used to it.

church in harar

Cuisine in Harar – Restaurants Are An Excellent Solution To Satisfy Everyone’s Appetites

Opposite to the accommodation, the choice of food in Harrar is more than excellent. Aside from the great and tasteful traditional cuisine, the city offers a wide range of places and restaurants suitable for even the highest demands. If you want to eat well while in Harrar, try visiting some of the restaurants in the old part of the city like Fresh Touch Restaurant, or the restaurants that are located in the new town, like Hirut Restaurant. The first one offers international cuisine, and the second one is rather a place with traditional dishes.

When it comes to the traditional meals, it is important to mention injera – soft, spongy bread, served with almost any other dish in Ethiopia. The most famous dish in the country is ‘wot’. Actually, there are several variations of the dish but ‘wot’ always implies ingredients such as vegetables, spices, meat, and sauce. It is served on the top of injera and it is perhaps the most popular lunch or dinner with domestic citizens and tourists.

In case you did not know, Ethiopia is one of the countries where eating with your bare hands is extremely desirable. So, you just tear off a piece of injera, use it to grab some food, and put it directly to your mouth. At first, it may look disgusting, but after a couple of days, you get used to it.

bamboo house in harar

Get Lost In The City And Discover Amazing Things To Do While In Harar

The city as beautiful as Harar, and gifted with numerous colourful houses and small vendors is a true gem worth visiting. That is why people who visit Harar usually enjoy getting lost in the alleys, discovering magnificent traditional houses painted in any colour that exist in the world. Once you come across a traditional house you really like, check if you are allowed to visit it since many of them are offered to tourists in exchange for a couple of coins.

Another amazing thing to do while in this Ethiopian beauty is to go shopping on the market. Harar’s markets are magnificent places that offer extraordinary handmade souvenirs. These are not even that expensive and most of the visitors come back home wearing extra luggage reserved just for the souvenirs. Spices and various fabric are mostly in demand.

A lot of tourists are looking forward to the activity of feeding hyenas, which is a long-lasting tradition in Harar. Namely, you pay a 100 birr to watch hyenas as well as to feed them with rotten meat. So, if you are not too scared, don’t miss the chance for this interesting activity. You can read more about my hyena feeding here and watch the video of my experience.

hyena feeding

[bdotcom_bm bannerid=”57085″]