Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Harar, Ethiopia - That's, that's all folks?


The primary attraction of Harar is the old city. Historical records show Harar has been around since the 7th C. AD. The 5m wall that surrounds the 60 hectare town was constructed in the 1560's. Access is gained through 5 original gates (2 were added in the early 1900's). The above is Showa Gate.

There's a mini-market surrounding Showa Gate. I found this young lady selling baguettes. She wanted a copy of some photos I took of her. So, she gave me her email address and, in addition, she gave me a glossy pic of herself. See below.

Pretty nice photo, eh...?

This is a "street" scene just inside Showa Gate. There's only one true, auto-accessible road that leads into town.

The population of the old city is about 22,000 people. Just wandering the alley ways gives you a close look at day to day life. Plus, the folks aren't adverse to having their pix taken. In fact, they'll ask you to take their pic more often than not...

Unofficial guide...

Egg-cellent photo. I'm not sure about the significants of the eggs. The kids were really proud of them though...

You won't believe this but there are a lot of kids in Ethiopia... (refer to the inverted demographic pyramid chart you learned about in social studies class)

The sun's pretty hot even before noon. Must. Have. A. Mirinda. Now...

The level of dilapidation in Harar's not bad. Not bad for a 1300 year old city...

Woke up early and started my exploration of Harar. The Old City was a perfect size for walking about in. Walked through the main Harar gate, down the traffic thoroughfare, and straight out into the country side. Interesting cemetery... Traced my footsteps back into town, finding myself meandering slowly through a labyrinth of cobbled alleys infusing the whitewashed adobe type architecture of shopping and living quarters. Just trying to soak in the everyday life of the people of Harrar.

Except for the lively market, human traffic was relatively sparse. Excellent opportunities for people watching and photography. Everyone seemed quite friendly. I even met a couple of Ethiopian-Canadians who had made the trip home for an extended stay. Surprisingly, the much anticipated onslaught of touts did not materialize.

Like I've written before Harar is the 4th holiest Islamic centre (mentioned in the same breath as Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem) in the world. The influence of Islam on the people was unquestionable, but the influence on the architecture was more subtle. I was expecting mosques of monumental size, but many of Old Harar's densely packed 90 or so mosques are small and private, blending in with the rest of Harar.

I spent the afternoon back at the Hotel since the temperature just soared once the sun reached its apex in the sky.

Restaurant Review.
I thought I'd give the guidebook glorified Hirut Restaurant another try. Failure to satisfy once again on a massive scale. There must have been a change in management. I ordered the mixed grill plate but got a meaty sludge served on injera. Not really good, especially considering the premium price.

The joint itself is really nicely decorated but really needs to work on its cookery.

As for service, it rivaled the non-stellar nature of menu. Very slow and indifferent. I was watching the BBC on their TV (a real treat when I can get it). I guess the bartender was bored and he shut off the TV in the middle of the news and proceeded to crank up the awful Ethiopian pop music. Noooooo..!!

I noticed alot of this inconsiderate behaviour in Africa (eg. turning off/blocking the view of TVs, trampling on each other while boarding buses, talking really loud in the hotel at all hours of the night while I'm trying to catch some zzzz's, and the list goes on). There really is no concept of consideration let alone customer service.

Brings me back to a comment or advice given to me at the Sudanese Embassy in Addis. I had been waiting a long time to see the visa guy when an Ethiopian woman sitting beside me encouraged me to crash the que ahead of me. She said that in Africa you've got to fight for everything you want or you'll find yourself outside looking in, regardless of whether its a bus seat, a train ticket, or even a turn at the toilet.

Dog eat dog my friends...

Think I'm visiting Harar beer factory tomorrow. Hopefully they're giving free T-shirts or hats to tourists...

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, Apr 30/07
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2 comments:

Steve H. said...

Harar - the holy city of Islam - has a beer factory? Something does not compute. Let me guess, they have the best bars and night life in Ethiopia too.

Osama ain't gonna be happy...

bubba said...

Strange mix, Islam + Beer. I don't mind the beer. You're right about the night life. It was pretty lively in the hotel tavern last night.

Did I mention that Harar is at the heart of the qat (chat) - Africa's answer to the coca plant - growing industry in Ethiopia.

Stay tuned for more fun facts...