Street scene in harar, ethiopia

Travel Photography in Harar – Ethiopia

Harar is a colorful and messy Muslim holy city. Of all the Ethiopian cities that I have visited, Harar is certainly the most intriguing from the unbanistic point of view.

Entering the ancient city through the Shewa gate we are swallowed up in a sea of ​​white, muffled, blinding and with uncertain borders …
The modest houses which give the city a bright aspect are repainted every year before Ramadam.

This fascinating city that rises on the south-eastern slopes of the Ahmer mountains has very little in common with other Ethiopian cities: in fact, in addition to having a different language and culture, it was for centuries an exclusively Islamic center that maintained cultural and commercial relations with Yemen and other regions of Arabia.

In the past, entry to the city was allowed only to Muslims. In fact the first European allowed to enter was Richard Burton who in 1854 was a guest of the emir for 10 days.

Harar is also the fourth holiest city in the Islamic world after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Here resides the largest Muslim community of Ethiopia.

Despite the enormous commercial importance it held in the horn of Africa, Harar remained unknown to Europeans until the early nineteenth century as it was not even indicated in the maps of the area: it entered Western history only thanks to the reports provided by the Ethiopian merchant Raymat Allah and by the explorer Burton in 1880.