Calendar   Home
Previous Day

March 13, 2002

Next Day
Harar stands apart from Ethiopia in history, culture, and religion. It's a Muslim stronghold in Orthodox Christian Ethiopia. Muslim power waxed in NE Africa during the sixteenth centruy. Harar served as the main base for Muslim attacks against Ethiopia's empire. Eventually Harar fell under Ethiopia but it remained 90% Muslim while the surrounding highlands became Christian. A small Muslim boy named Abdul acted as our guide as we explored narrow alleyways within Harar's city walls. Mid-afternoon, blasted by the sun, we left Harar on a mini-bus and an hour later we arrived in Dire Dawa. This city displayed the opposite character of Harar. Whereas Harar's streets meandered, tight and chaotic, Dire Dawa's streets ran straight and broad. Dire Dawa felt like a sleepy Italian town, with tree lined boulevards, outdoor cafes in shaded city squares, and small buildings of colonial Italian architecture.
Eighty seven mosques stand within 1 sq km of space inside Harar's walls, the world's largest concentration.
The famous French poet, Rimbaud, lived for years in Harar. Ethiopians say he lived in this house, but he was probably too poor for this place. In any case, we read his poetry and that's rich stuff.
One thing remains consistent throughout the Horn of Africa - you can always find a qat seller. This drug effects people like caffiene, yet its properties are unique so the World Health Organization classifies qat in its own drug category.
Old style blue and white cabs patrol the quiet streets of Dire Dawa.