The last leg of my journey was Harar, a medieval city whose old city features narrow winding streets. The old city is surrounded by a wall. My guide told me that in the old days, the surrounding Oromo tribe used to raid Harar in order to abduct women for forced marriages. The Oromo were apparently more negro than the people of Harar, so they therefore coveted Harari women, who were more beautiful than their own. Both groups were mainly Muslim.
Today, Harar is a cosmopolitan city, at the crossroads between the Middle East and Africa. Its culture and traditional dress show strong Yemenite and Somali influences. It’s famous for its “chat” (or “gat”/”qat” as it’s known in the Arab world), and exports it to Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen. As in other parts of Ethiopia, Christians and Muslims live in peace. There seems to be no friction between the two groups, and they even sometimes marry each other.
Harar is also famous for the hyena feeding. This tradition, in its present form, was started by a man named Yousef around 30-35 years ago. He was featured on National Geographic. Here’s my own modest little video of this event, showing Yousef at work. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. It’s quite an experience to be face to face with these beasts.