Harar

Overview

Introduction

Near the border with Somalia and 235 mi/380 km east of Addis Ababa, this 1,000-year-old town was once the home of French poet Arthur Rimbaud. At an elevation of 5,600 ft/1,850 m, it's in the middle of a coffee- and khat-growing region. (Khat is a mildly narcotic plant that is chewed for its stimulating effects.) The town has an Arabian Nights feel—city walls with gates and towers, mosques, twisting streets and a fascinating market (one of the oldest in Ethiopia—watch for the colorful basketwork). The main reason to go is to experience the ambience, but another attraction also draws tourists: the hyena men. These intrepid Ethiopians, for a few birr in payment, will call hyenas down from the hills by making wild noises. The hyenas then snatch pieces of meat from the men—sometimes from their hands or mouths.

About 35 mi/55 km northwest is Dire Dawa, a "new" town founded in 1900. Dire Dawa has an interesting market where Galla and Somali items are sold. Donkeys and camels are commonly seen in the streets. It's also a stop on the train to Djibouti.

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