Harar, Ethiopia : the land where my parents were born and raised. It is a historic town in Ethiopia and considered the fourth holiest city in Islam, after Makkah, Medina and Jerusalem. The first time I visited Ethiopia I was 7 years old, and since then I’ve returned three times. Most of my uncles, aunties and cousins live in Harar including my maternal grandmother, and so visiting Ethiopia is always a fun-filled time with lots of love, culture and tradition. The last time I visited was 2012, and so I had been craving to return either this year or the next.

It just so happened that my cousin announced her wedding date as planned for the end of July and I jumped to the opportunity to book a flight and find myself in the middle of a Harari wedding dance floor! Don’t forget to check out my blog post detailing the ins and outs of a Harari Wedding (you’ll be surprised at just how much custom there is!)

I flew with Ethiopian Airlines from London to Addis Ababa and then took a domestic flight to Dire Dawa. Ethiopian Airlines flies one flight a day from London, leaving at 9pm and flying throughout the night. Total flight time was about 7 hours, so not too bad if you can sleep through the night.

There are 5 gates of the old city of Harar Jugal – the names are written in the image above. The gates are still standing till this day and are used to describe the area of residence. One thing that I noticed especially during this trip to Harar was the huge variety of multicoloured houses. People paint the walls of their house with various patterns and colours to highlight their house and to show that this property is theirs.

I also visited the Harar Sherif Museum. Built by Indians, this museum is owned by my uncle, so luckily we were able to get a backstage pass and got to see how they work and curate the various items from their initial battered state to something worthy of displaying. We saw my uncle hard binding and cleaning old Qurans and old scriptures that were found. I would highly recommend visiting this museum for anyone visiting Harar – the tour guide speaks in English and gives such a detailed description of all the items on display.

I also took a visit inside the ‘Gey Madrassa’ which translates as the Harari School. This school, for primary aged children, is currently closed for the summer holidays. I was shocked at the mess, and how unkept it appeared to be. After speaking to some people, it was clear that funds are low and the government just can’t afford to maintain the school in a way that it should be.

Keep your eyes peeled for Part 2 coming soon. Has anyone else visited Ethiopia?

– A Y –


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