Ethiopia
Adrian Guerin

The ancient (and very colourful) walled city of Harar

Founded in 940 A.D., the ancient walled city of Harar is a maze of alleyways, mosques, markets and vibrant, colour-coded buildings. The citizens of the city are uniquely diverse, with Muslim, Ethiopian Orthodox and Catholics all residing in a small space. Their ability to peacefully coexist saw it awarded the City of Peace Prize by UNESCO in 2003.

Iftu of the Oromo ethnic group, Harar Old City, Ethiopia, 2016. The Oromos are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa, at approximately 34.5% of Ethiopia’s population.

Purple house and purple shirt; Anes loves purple.

The women in Harar are famous for their beautifully designed and brightly coloured veils. This woman is standing near the entrance of the Asmaddin Beri portal, one of 6 gates that punctuate the thick, five-metre-high walls running 3.5 kilometres around the city. The gate offers views of the alleyways leading into the old city, which can be seen in the background.

Briskly walking through the alleyways of Harar at any given time will be colourfully dressed Harari woman carrying intricately woven baskets, sacks, ceramics or ‘miscellaneous’ atop their heads.

A lady in a Harar street market. The market is filled with overflowing sacks of berbere (Ethiopian paprika), lentils and chickpeas in stalls packed so tightly that browsing requires a ‘one at a time’ policy.

A butcher takes 5 at Harar’s Gidir Magala meat market. The market is keenly observed by the black kites that perch above, patiently waiting for their moment to swoop and finagle a stray piece of camel, goat or chicken.

In the sea of colour that is Harar, this little one has opted to buck trends by sticking with a traditional black chador. Timeless.

A man grinds khat, a leaf that acts as a mild narcotic, in Harar old city. Men often sit for hours at a time chewing pre-purchased bags of leaves for their euphoric effect. This man has no teeth so he grinds the leaf before consumption. While the leaf is completely legal it is mildly addictive.

A girl guides her donkey towards the Jugol, the ancient walled city of Harar. The city is considered to be the fourth holiest city of Islam, following Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. The main point of entry is Harar Gate, which can be seen in the background. Adorning the gate is a photo of the last of Harar’s 72 Emirs, Emir Abdullahi.

The movie set of Harar. A city where the buildings are painted in pastel shades of blue, viridian, and vermillion. A city where the narrow streets are packed with vibrant, colour-coded buildings; green for a holy site, blue for the home of someone who has made the hajj to Mecca, white for ordinary houses. It’s well worth the 10-hour bus ride from Addis Ababa.

Many women play an active role not only in the local community, but also in sustaining Harar’s economy. A major local industry among Harari women is basket weaving; the elaborate baskets they weave are famous throughout the world. They also contribute to family income by selling produce from their farms in the sprawling street markets. Almost all are Sunni Muslim and dress in extravagant hues, the style of which is relative to their ethnic group (Oromo, Argobba, Somali or Adares).