Tourism to the Harar Jugol, the wall with 5 gates surrounds the old part of Harar. With a population of about 150,000, Harar is located on a hilltop at an elevation of 1,885masl in the eastern extension of the Ethiopian Highlands, at a road distance of ± 525km east of Addis Ababa and a road distance of ± 50 km south-east of Dire Daweat. Called Gey “the City” by its inhabitants, Harar was founded between the 7th and the 11th century and emerged as the center of Islamic culture and religion in the Horn of Africa. For many centuries, Muslim sultans continuously raided the Ethiopian Christian empire.
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Old town Harar is primarily accessible on foot as it is crossed by 368 narrow alleyways; The city is said to be the fourth holiest city of Islam, with 82 mosques and 102 shrines dating back to the 10th century. The ± 3,5km 4m high fortified city wall, Harar Jugol with 5 gates, was completed in the 16th century after the conquest of the Christian highlands, and Harar became capital of the Harari Kingdom from 1520 to 1568; It became an independent emirate in the 17th century. The old walled city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in recognition of its cultural and architectonic heritage. It is sometimes known in Arabic as “the City of Saints” “Madinat al-Awilya”.
The 16th century was Harar’s Golden Age. The local culture flourished, and many poets lived and wrote there. It also became known for coffee, weaving, basketry and bookbinding. A war of conquest expanded the territory and threatened the existence of Christian Ethiopian Empire. Emir Nur ibn Mujahid, built the embattlemented 4 m high curtain wall, called Jugol, around the city with five gates.
Arthur Rimbaud, a famous French poet lived in the city as the representative of commercial companies trading in coffee, musk and skins. The Rimbaud House is now a museum. The Harar Brewery’s beer can be sampled at its social club adjacent to the brewery. An old tradition involves the feeding spotted hyenas, which can bee watched by tourists after dawn.
The people of Harar claim that the domesticated coffee plant came from Harar, but the precise origin remains rather mystic. The word itself seems to refer to the Kaffa Region, where it still grows in the wild. The Harar region also may be the place where the khat plant became in use as a mind stimulant.
From Harar, one can visit the highest “amba” overlooking the city, the Kondudo mountain, which hosts a population of feral horses and a stalactite cave which rates among the 5 finest of Africa, locally know as the Gursum Pearl Cave. The latter is not yet developed and visits are a total expedition with no trails going to the caves, let alone inside the caves, which are without light.
At about 25km from the city is the Babile Elephant Sanctuary, the best park in Ethiopia to see Elephants. Other nearby attractions include the Prison House of Lij Eyasu in the Gara Mulleta Mountains.