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Visiting Harar – The Exotic City of Ethiopia

Harar in Ethiopia has a different feel to the rest of the country, with a more muslim influence and an old city dating back millennia.

It has been an important trading centre in the eastern region for a very long time.

The entire old city of Harar is a world heritage site and upon entering the gates the atmosphere transports you back in time.

(Post updated in 2020)



Harar Old City

harar ethiopia

With traders lining the winding alleys, the smell of spices, the hustle and bustle of a market in full swing, it feels like your in a biblical movie.

The women in colourful traditional dresses add some brightness to the scene while men carry heavy sacks of goods.

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.


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 it all.

If you have enough time and want to experience something different then it is worth going to visit for a few days.

You can even feed wild hyenas outside the old city walls if you want to!


If you want to learn more about things to see in Ethiopia have a read of my complete Ethiopia guide.

I highly recommend this guidebook to Ethiopia –

Ethiopia (Bradt Travel Guides)

I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.

If you liked this article about travel to Harar a share would be appreciated!

harar ethiopia


10 thoughts on “Visiting Harar – The Exotic City of Ethiopia”

  1. The markets were even more colorful in 1968 when they were outside the gates and in the open. Christian market in one place, and the Muslim market nearby. Harar was, and I guess still is, the travel exemplar of “far out.”

  2. Love your pictures and commentary Johnny. We plan on going to Ethiopia in a few years. You have really stirred up the excitement in me. Thanks Johnny

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