Harar – 5 City Gates

Friday, December 26, 2014
Harar, Harari, Ethiopia
Time to explore this city. Harar is the 4th holiest city for Muslims after Meca, Medina and Jerusalem. It is the spiritual heart of Ethiopia's large Islamic community and center of Muslim learning in Ethiopia with over 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century and 102 shrines. A city of mosques, minarets, and markets, it will be so different to what I am about to experience up north with the Christian monuments.

It was a city which once struck its own local currency and still has its own unique language. I read that it has long been regarded by the outside world as a city of mystery and romance. Situated on a high escarpment overlooking surrounding plains, which extend as far as the eye can reach, it enjoys a balmy climate and a fascinating history.

Harar is also the centre of a large chat growing area.

Chat in Ethiopia is also known as jimma in the Oromo language. Khat has been grown for use as a stimulant for centuries in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. There, chewing khat predates the use of coffee and is used in a similar social context.

Its fresh leaves and tops are chewed or, less frequently, dried and consumed as tea, to achieve a state of euphoria and stimulation; it also has anorectic side effects. The leaves or the soft part of the stem can be chewed with either chewing gum or fried peanuts to make it easier to chew. Thanks Mr Wikipedia.

The walls of Harar were pierced in early times by five gates, a number supposed to symbolize the Five Pillars of Islam. Each of these city gates play a different role in the economy of the city and of neighbouring lands.

The gates of Harar in olden days were strongly guarded, and were strictly closed at night - for no one was allowed to enter or leave the city during the long hours of darkness. Strangers wishing to enter Harar in daytime had first to deposit their spears, guns and other arms with the cities guards, who would look after them scrupulously, and return them when their owners were ready to leave. The walls had, however, a number of holes placed to allow the drainage of water and sewage and to enable hyenas, who constituted the principal garbage collectors, to enter the settlement at night and leave it before the break of dawn.

The subsequent integration of Harar into the greater Ethiopian realm led to the construction, in the twentieth century, of two additional gates: Harar Gate and Showa Gate.

Entering via the Harar Gate we went round clockwise driving between each gate.

First it was over to the eastern gate Erer Gate / Argoba Bari / Argob Beri where the small market is located. This is one of the main colourful Oromo chat market. In the past it served merchants handling the lucrative trade from Argobba, one of Ethiopia’s inland regions.

Next was Sanga Gate / Sugud Aat Bari / Sukutat Beri.
Third up and at the Buda Gate / Badri Bari / Bedri Beri the local children looked like they were characters out of Charles Dicken’s Oliver … no disrespect intended. Berbere Bari is called after Ethiopia’s hot peppery spice which is handled in the area.

Showda Gate / Shewa Gate / Asmaeddin Bari / (Christian market), so called because it afforded access to the important Ethiopian province of that name.

Back to the main or western Harar Gate / or Duke’s Gate which is today by far the most used for it links the old and new towns and also often appears in the tourist brochures of Harar.

The northern gate Fallana Gate / Assumiy Bari / Assum Beri was used by traders importing assu, or pepper and salt, from the Gulf of Aden coast of Africa.

Thanks to http://www.natytoursethiopia.com.et/Harar.htm for some of the above description.

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