Harar (Amharic: ሐረር; Harari: ሀረር; Oromo: Adare Biyyo; Somali: Herer; Arabic: هرر), known historically by the indigenous as Harar-Gey or simply Gey (Harari: ጌይ Gēy, lit.'the city'), is a walled city in eastern Ethiopia. It is also known in Arabic as the City of Saints (Arabic: مدينة الأولياء, romanized: Madīna al-ʾAwliyāʾ).

Harar is the capital city of the Harari Region. The ancient city is located on a hilltop in the eastern part of the country and is about five hundred kilometers from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa at an elevation of 1,885 metres (6,184 ft).

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Harar (Amharic: ሐረር; Harari: ሀረር; Oromo: Adare Biyyo; Somali: Herer; Arabic: هرر), known historically by the indigenous as Harar-Gey or simply Gey (Harari: ጌይ Gēy, lit.'the city'), is a walled city in eastern Ethiopia. It is also known in Arabic as the City of Saints (Arabic: مدينة الأولياء, romanized: Madīna al-ʾAwliyāʾ).

Harar is the capital city of the Harari Region. The ancient city is located on a hilltop in the eastern part of the country and is about five hundred kilometers from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa at an elevation of 1,885 metres (6,184 ft).

For centuries, Harar has been a major commercial center, linked by the trade routes with the rest of Ethiopia, the entire Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Asia, and through its ports, the outside world. Harar Jugol, the old walled city, was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2006 by UNESCO in recognition of its cultural heritage. Because of Harar's long history of involvement during times of trade in the Arabian Peninsula, the Government of Ethiopia has made it a criminal offence to demolish or interfere with any historical sites or fixtures in the city. These include stone homes, museums and items discarded from war. According to UNESCO, it is "considered 'the fourth holiest city' of Islam" with 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century, and 102 shrines.

Yahyá Naṣrallāh's Fatḥ Madīnat Harar, an unpublished history of the city in the 13th century, records that the legendary saint Abadir Umar ar-Rida and several other religious leaders settled in the Harar plateau c. 1216 (612 AH). Harar was later made the new capital of the Adal Sultanate in 1520 by the Sultan Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad. The city saw a political decline during the ensuing Emirate of Harar, only regaining some significance in the Khedivate of Egypt period. During the Ethiopian Empire, the city decayed while maintaining a certain cultural prestige.

 Harar city wall

When Harar was founded is unclear and various dates have been suggested, some state the early Semitic settlers of the region were believed to be of Hadhrami stock.[1][2] In any case, the modern city of Harar mostly dates back to the 1700s at the earliest, but the site itself has been the site of a city for much longer.[2]

It is likely the original inhabitants of the region are the Harla people.[3] Harar was part of the Harla Kingdom's domain in the sixth century.[4][5] In the Islamic period, the city was under an alliance called the confederated states of Zeila.[6] According to the twelfth-century Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela, the Zeila was the land of the Havilah, confined by al-Habash in the west.[7][8]

In the ninth century, Harar was under the Maḥzūmī dynasty's Sultanate of Shewa.[9][10]

Islam had gained a foothold on the Harar plateau by the 10th-11th centuries CE via trade with Zeila.[2] By the 13th century Islam had become the predominant religion in the region.[2]

The rise of Muslim states

Harar emerged as the center of Islamic culture and religion in the Horn of Africa during end of the Middle Ages.

According to the Fatḥ Madīnat Harar, the legendary saint Abadir Umar ar-Rida, along with several other religious leaders, came from the Arabian Peninsula to settle in the Harar plateau circa 612H (1216 CE), where Abadir was supposedly met by the Harla, Gaturi and Argobba people.[11] According to tradition, Abadir's brother Fakr ad-Din founded the Sultanate of Mogadishu, while one of his descendants founded the Hadiya Sultanate.[12][13]

According to the 14th century chronicles of Amda Seyon I, Gēt (Gēy) was a colony in the Harla country.[14] During the Middle Ages, Harar was part of the Adal Sultanate, becoming its capital in 1520 under Sultan Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad. The sixteenth century was the city's Golden Age. The local culture flourished, and many poets lived and wrote there. It also became known for coffee, weaving, basketry and bookbinding.

From Harar, Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, also known as "Gurey" and "Grañ", both meaning "the Left-handed", launched a war of conquest in the sixteenth century that extended the polity's territory and threatened the existence of the neighboring Oriental Orthodox Christian Ethiopian Empire. His successor, Emir Nur ibn Mujahid, built a protective wall around the city to defend its population from the Oromo invasion. Four meters in height with five gates, this structure, called the Jugol, is still intact and is a symbol of the town to the inhabitants Harari people. Siltʼe, Wolane, Halaba and Harari people lived in Harar, while the former three moved to the Gurage region.[15]

Immediately after Ahmad's wars, Harar experienced a severe famine.[16] The prices of food and livestock rose significantly: one sa'a (a unit equal to four handfuls) of sorghum cost 12 ashrafis, and an equal amount of salt cost 15.[16] A cow cost over 300 ashrafis.[16] As the economy recovered from the famine, the price of a sa'a of sorghum fell to 4-5 mahallaks (a sub-denomination of the ashrafi).[16] Another famine during the reign of Nur ibn Mujahid raised the cost of a sa'a of sorghum to 2 ashrafis.[16] This is the first mention of the ashrafi and mahallak as denominations of money in Harar.[16]

 Wooden balconies on the streets of Harar.

The Emirate of Harar also struck its own currency, the earliest possible issues bearing a date that may be read as 615 AH (1218/19 CE); but the first coins were definitely issued by 1789 CE, and more were issued into the nineteenth century.[17]

Elisée Reclus (1886) describes the two main ancient routes leading from Harar to Zeila, one route passing through the country of the Gadabuursi and one route passing through Issa territory, both subclans of the Dir clan family:

"Two routes, often blocked by the inroads of plundering hordes, lead from Harrar to Zeila. One crosses a ridge to the north of the town, thence redescending into the basin of the Awash by the Galdessa Pass and valley, and from this point running towards the sea through Issa territory, which is crossed by a chain of trachytic rocks trending southwards. The other and more direct but more rugged route ascends north-eastwards towards the Darmi Pass, crossing the country of the Gadibursis or Gudabursis. The town of Zeila lies south of a small archipelago of islets and reefs on a point of the coast where it is hemmed in by the Gadibursi tribe. It has two ports, one frequented by boats but impracticable for ships, whilst the other, not far south of the town, although very narrow, is from 26 to 33 feet deep, and affords safe shelter to large craft."[18]

Decline  Map of Harar-Berbera trade route commenced from the reign of emir Ahmad III ibn Abu Bakr

Following the death of Emir Nur, the Harari state began a steady decline in wealth and power. A later ruler, Imam Muhammed Jasa, a kinsman of Ahmad Gragn, known as, Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al Ghazi yielded to the pressures of increasing Oromo raids and in 1577 abandoned the city, relocating to Aussa and making his brother ruler of Harar. The new base not only failed to provide more security from the Oromo invasion, it was coupled by Somali incursions and would eventually be invaded by the neighboring Afar people.[19] The Imamate of Aussa declined over the next century while Harar regained its independence under `Ali ibn Da`ud, the founder of a dynasty that ruled the city from 1647 until 1875, when it was conquered by Egypt.[20]

Richard Francis Burton describes Harar during his visit in 1855:[21]

"The ancient metropolis of a once mighty race, the only permanent settlement in Eastern Africa, the reported seat of Moslem learning, a walled city of stone houses, possessing its independent chief, its peculiar population, its unknown language, and its own coinage, the emporium of the coffee trade, the head-quarters of slavery, the birth-place of the Chat plant"

In the 1800s Emir Ahmad III ibn Abu Bakr halted all imports and exports from the port of Zeila opting for Berbera instead due to a dispute with his mother, the sister of the chief Somali Giri clan controlling the route to Zeila.[22] According to Richard Francis Burton, who visited both Berbera and Harar during his travels, he repeated a famous Harari saying he heard in 1854: "He who commands at Berbera, holds the beard of Harar in his hands."[23] In this period slaves of Sidama and Gurage stock were important commodities exported to the coast.[24] A significant portion of the trade between the two historic towns Harar-Berbera was controlled by merchants belonging to the Habr Awal, Isaaq clan, who also partook in the trade of the renowned Harari coffee bean, which were named Berbera Coffee in the international market.[25][26] Harar was also the home of numerous Somali scholars who came to the city to study the most notable being Sheikh Madar founder of Hargeisa.[27][28]

Harar appears to have begun minting coins more-or-less continuously during the reign of the emir Abd al-Shakur ibn Yusuf.[16] Surviving coins from his reign are of high quality, with a high silver content and clear inscriptions reflecting the use of good dies.[16] The currency was heavily debased under Muhammad ibn Ali, who introduced a new type of coin, heavily alloyed with tin, in order to meet his obligations to his Gosa brothers.[16] He decreed that anyone with the old currency had to exchange it for the new kind.[16] Muhammad Mukhtar, an officer in the Egyptian army, wrote in 1876 condemning this as a massive fraud.[16] In 1883, a German traveller wrote that the currency was not worth even one-tenth of its nominal value.[16]

19th Century  A scene on the road to the market in Harar, between 1900 and 1920.

In 1875 Muhammad Rauf Pasha led an Egyptian force from Zeila into the interior of southeast Ethiopia, pretending to be a scientific expedition. It occupied Harar on 11 October 1875.[29]

Rauf Pasha initially suspended Harari coins from circulation and sent some samples to Cairo for analysis, hoping to replace them with Egyptian currency.[16] However, the Egyptian government was unable to provide enough money to do this and advised him to keep Harari currency in use.[16] However, the value of the Harari mahallak was reassessed from 33 to the Maria Theresa thaler before to 300 to the dollar after.[16] Once the analysis of the coins' silver content was completed, this was further changed to 311 to the thaler.[16]

During the period of Egyptian rule (1875-1884), Arthur Rimbaud lived in the city as the local functionary of several different commercial companies based in Aden; he returned in 1888 to resume trading in coffee, musk, and skins until a fatal disease forced him to return to France. A house said to have been his residence is now a museum.[30]

In 1885, Harar regained its independence under Amir Abdullahi, but this lasted only two years. Abyssinian forces of Shewa would invade the Emirate of Harar in 1886 but suffer a defeat at the hands of the emir's troops during the Battle of Hirna.[31] A few months later on 9 January 1887 Battle of Chelenqo the Shewan king Menelik II would lead the conquest of Harar.[32]

Harar was the place where the modern Ethiopian state minted its first coins under Menelik II, bearing the date of 1885 E.C. (1892 CE).[16]

Harar lost some of its commercial importance with the creation of the French-built Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway, initially intended to run via the city but diverted north of the mountains between Harar and the Awash River to save money. As a result of this, Dire Dawa was founded in 1902 as New Harar. The British planned to revitalise the historic Harar-Berbera trade route by connecting the two cities via rail as a means to bolster trade. However, the initiative was vetoed by parliament on the grounds that it would harm the Entente Cordiale between France and Britain.[33]

All the trade routes linking Harar to the Somali coast passed through the Somali and Oromo territories where the Gadabuursi and Issa subclans of the Dir clan family held the monopoly of trade as is mentioned in the History of Harar and the Hararis:

"In the 19th century the jurisdiction of the Amirs was limited to Harar and its close environs, while the whole trade routes to the coast passed through Oromo and the Somali territories. There were only two practicable routes: one was the Jaldeissa, through Somali Issa and Nole Oromo territories, the other of Darmy through the Gadaboursi. The Somali, who held a monopoly as transporters, took full advantage of the prevailing conditions and the merchants were the victim of all forms of abuse and extortion... Under the supervision of these agents the caravan would be entrusted to abbans (caravan protector), who usually belonged to the Issa or Gadaboursi when destined to the coast and to Jarso when destined for the interior."[34]

20th Century until present  A traditional home in Harar with a niche adorned with Islamic calligraphy. The Harari Cultural House (Gey Gar)

Harar was captured by Italian troops under Marshall Rodolfo Graziani during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War on 8 May 1936. The 1st battalion of the Nigeria Regiment, advancing from Jijiga by way of the Marda Pass, captured the city for the allies 29 March 1941.[35] Following the conclusion of the Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement in 1944, the government of the United Kingdom were granted permission to establish a consulate in Harar, although the British refused to reciprocate by allowing an Ethiopian one at Hargeisa. After numerous reports of British activities in the Haud that violated the London Agreement of 1954, the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered the consulate closed March 1960.[36]

A railway from Berbera to Harrar in Abyssinia was suggested as a means of bringing the interior of the protectorate within easy access, and at the same time of catering for the trade of Abyssinia; but it was vetoed on the ground that to compete with the French railway from Jibouti to Addis Ababa would be poor policy at a time when the entente cordiale had just been firmly cemented.[37]

In 1995, the city and its environs became an Ethiopian region (or kilil) in its own right.[citation needed] A pipeline to carry water to the city from Dire Dawa is currently under construction.[citation needed]

^ Walker, Bethany (6 October 2020). The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Archaeology. Oxford University Press. p. 425. ISBN 978-0-19-750787-2. ^ a b c d Insoll, Timothy (2003). The Archaeology of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 77–8. ISBN 0-521-65171-9. Retrieved 25 August 2021. ^ Gebissa, Ezekiel (2004). Leaf of Allah: Khat & Agricultural Transformation in Harerge, Ethiopia 1875-1991. Ohio State University Press. ISBN 978-0-85255-480-7., page 36 ^ Belayneh, Anteneh (2014). "Ethnomedicinal plants used to treat human ailments in the prehistoric place of Harla and Dengego valleys, eastern Ethiopia". Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 10: 18. doi:10.1186/1746-4269-10-18. PMC 3933041. PMID 24499509. ^ Insoll, Timothy. "First Footsteps in the Archaeology of Harar, Ethiopia". Journal of Islamic Archaeology. Archived from the original on 2020-02-04. Retrieved 2020-06-18. ^ Wehib, Ahmed (October 2015). History of Harar and Harari (PDF). Harari people regional state, culture, heritage and tourism bureau. p. 45.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link) ^ Adler, Elkan Nathan (2014). Jewish Travellers. Routledge. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-134-28606-5. ^ The St. James's Magazine. Houlston & Wright. 1868. p. 84. ^ The Ethno-History of Halaba People (PDF). p. 15. Retrieved 20 October 2017. ^ Østebø, Terje (2011). Localising Salafism: Religious Change Among Oromo Muslims in Bale, Ethiopia. BRILL. p. 56. ISBN 978-90-04-18478-7. ^ Braukämper, Ulrich (2002). Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia: Collected Essays. LIT Verlag Münster. ISBN 978-3-8258-5671-7., page 107 ^ Hassen, Mohammed (2015). The Oromo and the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia: 1300-1700. Boydell & Brewer. p. 99. ISBN 978-1-84701-117-6. ^ Luling, Virginia (2002). Somali Sultanate: The Geledi City-state Over 150 Years. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7658-0914-8. ^ Budge, E. A. Wallis (2014). A History of Ethiopia: Volume I (Routledge Revivals): Nubia and Abyssinia. Routledge. p. 297. ISBN 978-1-317-64915-1. ^ Crass, Joachim (2001). "The Qabena and the Wolane: Two peoples of the Gurage region and their respective histories according to their own oral traditions". Annales d'Éthiopie. 17 (1): 180. Retrieved 15 February 2017. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Zekaria, Ahmed (1991). "Harari Coins: A Preliminary Survey". Journal of Ethiopian Studies. 24: 23–46. JSTOR 41965992. Retrieved 28 August 2021. ^ Richard Pankhurst, An Introduction to the Economic History of Ethiopia (London: Lalibela House, 1961), p. 267. ^ Reclus, Elisée (1886). The Earth and its Inhabitants The Universal Geography Vol. X. North-east Africa (PDF). J.S. Virtue & Co, Limited, 294 City Road. Two routes, often blocked by the inroads of plundering hordes, lead from Harrar to Zeila. One crosses a ridge to the north of the town, thence redescending into the basin of the Awash by the Galdessa Pass and valley, and from this point running towards the sea through Issa territory, which is crossed by a chain of trachytic rocks trending southwards. The other and more direct but more rugged route ascends north-eastwards towards the Darmi Pass, crossing the country of the Gadibursis or Gudabursis. The town of Zeila lies south of a small archipelago of islets and reefs on a point of the coast where it is hemmed in by the Gadibursi tribe. It has two ports, one frequented by boats but impracticable for ships, whilst the other, not far south of the town, although very narrow, is from 26 to 33 feet deep, and affords safe shelter to large craft. ^ Harbeson, John (1978). "Territorial and Development Politics in the Horn of Africa: The Afar of the Awash Valley". African Affairs. Oxford University Press. 77 (309): 486. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.afraf.a097023. JSTOR 721961. ^ Richard Pankhurst, The Ethiopian Borderlands (Lawrenceville: Red Sea Press, 1997), pp. 375-377 ^ Burton, Richard. First footsteps in East Africa. ^ Ahmad b. Abu Bakr. Encyclopedia Aethiopica. ^ Jonas, Raymond (2011). The Battle of Adwa. Harvard University Press. p. 74. ^ Toledano, Ehud (14 July 2014). The Ottoman Slave Trade and Its Suppression. Princeton University Press. p. 31. ISBN 9781400857234. ^ Ben-Dror, Avishai (23 August 2018). Emirate, Egyptian, Ethiopian Colonial Experiences in Late Nineteenth-Century Harar. Syracuse University Press. p. 24. ISBN 9780815654315. ^ Hunter, Frederick (1877). An Account of the British Settlement of Aden in Arabia. Cengage Gale. p. 41. ^ Burton. F., Richard (1856). First Footsteps in East Africa. p. 360. ^ Abdullahi, Abdurahman (2017-09-18). Making Sense of Somali History: Volume 1. Adonis and Abbey Publishers. p. 80. ISBN 9781909112797. ^ Zewde, Bahru (17 March 2002), A History of Modern Ethiopia, 1855–1991, Ohio University Press, p. PT74, ISBN 978-0-8214-4572-3 ^ Munro-Hay, Stuart (2002). Ethiopia, the Unknown Land: A Cultural and Historical Guide. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 184. ISBN 978-1-86064-744-4. ^ Harold G. Marcus, The Life and Times of Menelik II: Ethiopia 1844-1913, (Lawrenceville: Red Sea Press, 1995), p. 91 ^ Caulk, Richard A. (1971). "The Occupation of Harar: January 1887". Journal of Ethiopian Studies. 9 (2): 1–20. JSTOR 41967469. ^ Berbera-Harrar Railway Survey Vol. 1 (Report). ^ Ahmed, Wehib M. (2015). History of Harar and the Hararis (PDF). Harari People Regional State Culture, Heritage and Tourism Bureau. In the 19th century the jurisdiction of the Amirs was limited to Harar and its close environs, while the whole trade routes to the coast passed through Oromo and the Somali territories. There were only two practicable routes: one was the Jaldeissa, through Somali Issa and Nole Oromo territories, the other of Darmy through the Gadaboursi. The Somali, who held a monopoly as transporters, took full advantage of the prevailing conditions and the merchants were the victim of all forms of abuse and extortion... Under the supervision of these agents the caravan would be entrusted to abbans (caravan protector), who usually belonged to the Issa or Gadaboursi when destined to the coast and to Jarso when destined for the interior. ^ Anthony Mockler, Haile Selassie's War (New York: Olive Branch, 2003), pp. 145, 367f ^ John Spencer, Ethiopia at Bay: A personal account of the Haile Selassie years (Algonac: Reference Publications, 1984), pp. 282-287 ^ The Navy Everywhere, 1919. p. 244
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