Hyenas and Harar

31 Aug
Showa Gate to the Old City of Harar

Showa Gate to the Old City of Harar

I just returned from a quick weekend trip to the old city of Harar on the East side of Ethiopia. Close to the Somalia border, Harar is the 4th Holiest City in Islam and the root of much of Islamic culture in Ethiopia. Having lived in a highly Orthodox area for the past year, it was a nice break and a trip down memory lane to my time in Jordan. The old city of Harar had a much more middle eastern feel and some more recognizable market spices.

Harar is the site where a part of the Umma (original muslim community in Arabia) immigrated for refuge from the Mecca – Medina conflict in the late 600s. The ruler of Ethiopia (then Abyssinia) opened his doors to the Muslims and started the tradition of religious tolerance in Ethiopia. Islam is the second largest religion here after the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church.

Harar is the 4th holiest city in Islam - the old city boast 88 mosques

Harar is the 4th holiest city in Islam – the old city boasts 88 mosques


Representing Peace Corps as I walk through Showa Gate


Women selling chat – a leaf chewed by many Ethiopians with the equivalent effect of the cocoa leaf. It is very common in Muslims communities.


A huge pile of dried kariya peppers, the main spice in berbere

A huge pile of dried kariya peppers, the main spice in berbere

Picking up a guide for a tour of the old city we walked through ancient city walls and toured some of the local homes and more famous residents of the town. Haile Selassie used to have a “palace” here (Ras Tefari’s house), and the interior decor of the homes was famously “Harari.” Tasting street food along the way (I am in Peace Corps after all), we finished the afternoon  with some Hakim Stout – the local brew.

Ras Taferi's house (later, known as Haile Selassie)

Ras Taferi’s house (later, known as Haile Selassie)

Carmen, Kristin, and Me at Ras Tefari's house

Carmen, Kristin, and Me at Ras Tefari’s house

A typical Harari home

A typical Harari home – these pots get taken down to entertain


Bajajes and Blue Donkeys are common all over Ethiopia

Bajajes and Blue Donkeys are common all over Ethiopia

The main attraction in Harar though are the famous “hyena men.” These local guys sit outside the city walls every night around sunset to feed wild hyenas fatty camel meat. These hyenas have basically been domesticated over years of guaranteed food, and consistent feeding has made them huge! I did not realize just how big these animals would be. I thought big dogs, the reality was more like small bears. But, I screwed up my courage and we all volunteered to feed them ourselves, with help from the hyena man.

A very clear "what the hell am I doing with my life" face

A very clear “what the hell am I doing with my life” face

IMG_1858 IMG_1853

Carmen is BRAVE!

Carmen is BRAVE!


This is one of my first trips outside my immediate region, and it was great to see a very different part of Ethiopia with different culture, food, and infrastructure. After Harar I headed down to the Southern Nations to do a training in a city called Butajira for the new group of education volunteers. So over a few days I was able to see the Harar region and a part of the south, expanding my understanding of Ethiopia as a whole.

5 Responses to “Hyenas and Harar”

  1. joyce dowd August 31, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    great pictures Sarah as you say those Hyenas are huge! Interesting to see the tuc tucs on the road! Bet you are looking forward to Christmas this year!!!

  2. smrowland November 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    I really enjoyed this post in Harar! I am a PCV in Kenya and am going to Harar in April for a Global Habitat build. Really cool about the hyenas, definitely want to try that, are there any other must-dos to mention that aren’t in the post?


    • sarahjcrozier November 13, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

      Hey! Glad you liked it. I would suggest doing a guided tour of the old city. I’ve lived here a year and still learned lots of new things. Don’t pay more than 100 birr per person though (about $5). I hear the Harari beer garden is good, though we skipped that. If you’re in Dire Dowa on the way (most people fly into there) the Train Museum is pretty cool. Have a good trip!

  3. smrowland November 14, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    That’s great to know! Any other price ranges that could be useful? I’m only good at negotiating in Kenyan shillings, lol.


  1. Nations and Nationalities Day | Wanderings and Wonderings - December 12, 2013

    […] Ababa, Dire Dowa, and  Harar boast their own city principalities, and per my previous post, Harar has an interesting and unique twist to its […]

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