The walled city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia:- Aljazeera

The walled city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia

The colourful, maze-like alleys within the Mecca of Africa remain alive and busy during the holy month of Ramadan.

(Aljazeera) — Harar, Ethiopia- With 368 alleys squeezed into just one sq km, the old walled city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia is a colourful maze that begs exploration. Its thick, five-metre-high walls were erected in the 16th century as a defensive response to the neighbouring Christian Ethiopian Empire, but today Muslims and Christians share the city in peace.

Harar grew into a crossroads for commerce between Africa, India and the Middle East and was a gateway for the spread of Islam into the Horn of Africa.

With its 110 mosques and 102 shrines, Harar is often referred to as the fourth-holiest city in Islam and known in Arabic as Madeenat-ul-Awliya (the City of Saints). Before the holy month of Ramadan, locals repaint the walls of the old town in vibrant colours.

As the sun sets, the streets of Africa’s Mecca come to life as locals break their fast, meet neighbours to chew khat and practise the rhythmic zikri ritual among the Sufi shrines.

The hustle and bustle at the Awodai khat market highlights the importance of this slow-growing shrub to Harar. Ethiopia is the world’s largest producer of khat and most of it comes from this region. About a third of the production is exported to neighbouring countries like Djibouti and Somalia. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]
The abstinence observed by Muslims in Harar during Ramadan is compensated by a long night of khat chewing. The crop can be harvested year-round and is an important source of revenue for many in the region. The leaf is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]
Women rest in the shade outside a mosque within the walled city. Harar is often referred to as the fourth-holiest city in Islam. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]
A distinct architectural feature in Harar, the traditional Adare house is a two-storey structure with a flat roof. The main living room always consists of five raised platforms of differing levels, where guests and household members sit befitting their status. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]
Shoa Gate, known to locals as Asmaddin Bari, is one of the five original 16th-century gates leading into the city. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]
Erer Gate is also commonly referred to as the Richard Burton gate in Harar. In 1854, the British explorer, disguised as an Arab merchant, became the first non-Muslim to enter the city through this entrance. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]
Renowned French poet Arthur Rimbaud lived like a local in a small house in Harar while working as a coffee trader and gun-runner between 1875 and 1884. Often mistakenly called Rimbaud’s Home, this Indian merchant house was built on the site where Rimbaud was said to have lived. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]
This narrow street came to be called ‘Sewing-Machine Sound Street,’ for the numerous tailors busily working outside their shops. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]
Oromo women walk to Harar from the surrounding countryside to sell firewood. Afterwards, they spend their earnings on food and household goods, before returning home. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]
A seasonal mango market takes place right outside the city gates. Despite the heat and Ramadan fasting for the majority of locals, markets remain busy. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]
Mujahid Gature leads zikri at the Sheikh Gatur Mosque, a Sufi exercise which consists of the repetition of God’s name all through the night. The cult of saints in Harar developed the zikri rituals considered to be one of the unique elements of the culture of this town. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]
Locals repaint the walls of the old town in vibrant colours in advance of the holy month of Ramadan. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]
The fortified historic town of Harar, known as Harar Jugol, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]
The city of Harar is located on a hilltop in the eastern extension of the Ethiopian Highlands. [Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera]