The walled city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia

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.


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