Harar is a walled city which stands on the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley and is the provincial capital of Ethiopia’s largest administrative region, Hararge. The city’s location gives wonderful views of the surrounding country – the vast Danakil desert to the north, the fertile Harar mountains to the west, and the cattle rich Ogaden plains to the south.
Harar was a fiercely religious city and was a forbidden city (closed to visitors), until 1887 when Menelik restored central rule. With its 99 mosques, including the 16th century Grand Mosque with is beautiful twin towers and slender minaret, it is considered to be the fourth most holy city in Islam after Mecca, Medina and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
World Heritage–listed Harar is a place apart. With its 368 alleyways squeezed into just 1 sq km, it’s more reminiscent of Fez in Morocco than any other city in the Horn. Its countless mosques and shrines, animated markets, crumbling walls and charming people will make you feel as if you’ve floated right out of the 21st century. It’s the east’s most memorable sight and shouldn’t be missed. And, as if that wasn’t enough, there are many chances to get up-close and personal with wild hyenas. It’s a rare traveller who doesn’t enjoy themselves here.