The Old World Ambience of a Visit to Harar

Harar has a different feel to the rest of Ethiopia. With a more muslim influence and old city dating back millennia it has been an important trading centre in the eastern region. The entire old city of Harar is a world heritage site and upon entering the gates the atmosphere transports you back in time.

harar ethiopia

With traders lining the winding alleys, the smell of spices, the hustle and bustle of a market in full swing, you  walk through it all trying not to get in the way. The women in colourful traditional dresses add some brightness to the scene while men carry heavy sacks of produce.

harar ethiopia

It’s easy to get lost in the old city of Harar, with the never-ending maze of winding streets and alleys, and every other turn bringing something new to see. There are different areas for different things.  An alley lined with textile repairs sewing away in the shade, cups of coffee passed around and the chewing of qat. Qat is a green leaf that you chew for hours and is a mild stimulant and is very popular.

harar-old-city-market-ethiopia

Being an old trading city various cultures have left their marks. Indian traders built grand houses, arabs built mosques and they all blend into the place to leave their own mark.

harar ethiopia

You can stay at a traditional Adare house when visiting. They are old houses with a courtyard shared by many families, and a common area full of decorations.

harar ethiopia

There is plenty of street food, from fruit in the market and tasty samosas for only 5 cents each, as well as various pastries. In some places you will get the wonderful smell of spices.

harar ethiopia

One of the greatest markets in Harar is the Christian market at the entrance to Shoah gate. It bursts more into life as the day goes on and you could watch the people passing by for a long time, going about their various businesses.

harar ethiopia

harar ethiopia

Travel to Harar

In Harar it’s good to just take things slowly. There aren’t that many ‘sights’ as such, it’s more the feel that you get wandering around the maze in the old city, with all the activity going on around you.

Sipping a cup of coffee and listening to traders tell stories as you sit on the side of the street, bargaining hard to buy something from a market seller, laughing at the cheeky children getting in everyones way, you will see al of that. If you have enough time and want to experience something different, then it is worth going to visit for a few days.

I can highly recommend this guidebook to Ethiopia –


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Jonny Duncan is a freelance blogger and photographer. He specialises in budget travel and outdoor adventures with over 20 years of experience. He started blogging in 2013 and has helped many travelers plan their travels since.

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