About Harar Jugol
Harar Jugol, also known simply as Harar, was an important 16th century capital and remains an important fortified historic town in Ethiopia. It served as a vital trade route from the late 16th to 19th centuries and is also said to be the fourth holiest city of Islam, boasting 3 mosques from the 10th century and an impressive 82 mosques overall.
Today, Harar Jugol is a UNESCO World Heritage site, best known for its distinctive and well preserved historic townhouses which reflect its cultural heritage, particularly those of African and Islamic traditions. The most intact elements of the historic town of Harar Jugol are said to lie in the eastern and south-eastern part of the walled town.
Harar Jugol history
The area of Haar Jugol emerged as the centre of Islamic culture and religion during the Middle Ages. The Islamic Arabic cleric Abadir Umar ar-Rida settled in Harar, located on a plateau surrounded by deep gorges and savannah, around 1216 AD. The historic Harar Jugol Walls were built during the 13th and 16th centuries, fortifying the town.
It was between 1520 and 1568 that Harar served as the capital of the Harari Kingdom in what is known as Harar’s ‘Golden Age’. Local culture flourished, known for coffee, weaving, basketry and bookbinding, also home to many poets. From the late 16th century to the 19th century Harar Jugol was an important trade centre between the coast and the interior highlands and a location for Islamic learning.
Harar Jugol became an independent emirate in the 17th century until it was invaded by Egypt in 1875. In 1887 Harar Jugol was integrated into Ethiopia by the Emperor Menelik II, and suffered commercially as the French built the Addis Ababa to Djibouti Railway, diverting north of Harar to save money.
Harar Jugol today
Today, this unique African and Islamic city can offer 110 mosques and many more shrines, centred around Feres Magala Square. Notable buildings to visit include the Medhane Alem Cathedral, the houses of Ras Makonnen and Arthur Rimbaud (pictured), as well as the Great Five Gates of Harar.
During the 1960s, locals began feeding meat to nearby spotted hyenas which can often be seen at night. For further interesting wildlife, there is an ancient population of feral horse on Kondudo or ‘W’ Mountain, now the focus of a conservation effort. You could also visit the Harar Brewery, established in 1984.
Getting to Harar Jugol
The city of Hara Jugol is served by Dire Dawa international airport, with a bus into the city and also services to Adis Ababa. Within Harar, there are the blue and white minibuses that make travel within the city easy and cheap.
Ethiopia Historic Sites
Discover 5 of the best historic sites in Ethiopia, from the incredible rock-hewn Lalibela Churches to the ancient capital of Axum, in our historic traveller's guide.