Ethiopia Tour 3:


Harar and, indeed, the Eastern provinces of Hararege slipped away from Ethiopia with the rise of Islam. In fact, geography had never made Harar a part of Ethiopia. The heartland of Medieval Abyssinia lay in the mountains of the North, and Harar lay on the other side of the Great Rift valley on fairly flat lands, closer historically and culturally to the Moslem States that dominated the Red Sea trade after the death of Axum.

Typically Harar formed the capital of the Sultanate of Adal. It neighbored other Moslem states, including those of the Somalia and the Djibouti. However, the Moslem states often spent more time quarreling with each other than the Christians and, again, the Prophet did not authorize any jihad against the Ethiopians.

All of this changed with the rise of Ahmad Gragn who became Amir of Harar and the chief of the Adal (Afari) tribes. In 1528, with an army of 16,000, he invaded the highlands aided by Turkish mercenaries and artillery. A devout Moslem, he devastated not only the Christians but their places of worship, the monasteries and churches. Called "Gragn," the left-handed, his invasion gave little quarter to the Chrisians.

The Christian king, on his side, used Portuguese troops and the two sides foughts ferociosly, the Abssyinians, the Northerners, for the survival of their culture and relgion and Grazni for that of his own. After the death of both kings,the Christians drove the Moslem out of the highlands. However, the cost to both sides was so heavy that pagan Oromo tribes managed to invade both Moslem and Christian territories to become a part of the cultural mix of Ethiopia.

Until recently, Harar remained independent of Ethiopia. Ras Makonnen here, as elsewhere, arrived as 19th Century conquerer and his statue stands a number of places. In the last two generations various Ethiopian peoples arrived in Harar so that the population is not exclusively Moslem.

Less than spectacular Mosques notwithstanding, Harar is considered the third most holy city in Islam after Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. It's also a symbol of the Moslem presence and influence on modern Ethiopia.


Harar converted to Islam early. In the 1600s, Gazni, the left-handed's, armies attacked the highlands and briefly conquered Ethiopia.

A view of the town. Adal remained a kingdom apart well into the 19th Century.

Another view of the city.

A walled city, Harar, often seems more a part of the Middle East than Ethiopia.

The city foundations.

Another view of the city.

A space between the two walls.

Here is the Grand Mosque of the City.

The author on the steps of the Grand Mosque of the "Fourth Holiest City of Islam.

The second most important mosque.

The third most important mosque.

An old, traditional, multi-level home.

Notice the multi-levels and the artwork.

This is the tomb of the last independent ruler of Adal before Ethiopian conquest.

An interior view.

The Orthodox Church sits in front of the Grand Mosque, a symbol of the conquest.

Another view.

Ras Mekonnen, another statue.

Rimbaud, the French poet, came to Harar to smuggle arms.
Here, I'm in front of his house, pen in hand.

Another view.

The markets of Harar.

Another view of the market.


Related Ethiopian Tours:
Back to Tour 2: Lalibela
On to Tour 4: Gondar and Addis Adaba

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