The 200 kilometres to Harar took just over 4 hours to navigate  the  roads ,  highland winds twists and turns . We arrived in this ancient walled city where I was going to experience a way of life frozen in time , blended with the new world of construction , tech and commerce , where within one city different  religions and cultures  walk free and proud all wrapped in the fabric of what it means to be  a citizen of Harar .

 

The road to Harar .

The road to Harar .

 

Smaller villages one passes through en route to Harar . Still very busy .

Smaller villages one passes through en route to Harar . Still very busy .

 

I met up with Dr Lemessa who kindly introduced me to the hotel staff and who asked the hotel to find me a guide to enrich my time in the city and to show me a little of their world , so by 16h00 I was with Tedy Zion  my appointed guide touring the city both old and new .

 

The new .

The new .

 

The old and my first gate

The old and my first gate

Once you enter the old city  through one of its five gates , you are transported back in time , you expect to look down , see your feet in sandals , your clothing transformed to rough spun cotton or your body  caressed by fine silk  , your coin bold and brass , the  weapon at your side  forged by hammer and  flame , adorned with a  jewel  encrusted handle , so  your life is thrown back hundreds of years to a lively rich  place . Trading , living and eating on the street , your world protected  by an ancient wall . Your life free  , your senses full of scent and spice , your eyes adjusting to the frenzied  activity , your step more cautious  to the cobbles and narrow  alleys , your space and movement robbed by congestion  , you come alive , with your mind imagining you here in this old place living in the time of  kings , prophets and warlords . So I took my first breath of old .

 

First breath of this ancient place.

First breath of this ancient place.

My excitement feverish I tried to take it all in , my eyes unable to settle or focus , always being shown something new , bigger or  brighter , a scent takes them from trade to seek its source  , a bump , a touch , a face , eyes meeting and moving , I was less than 100 meters in , so let me take you visually through these streets before we meet for coffee down an alley in a home ancient in construction as condition where I will tell you more .

 

The colour of heat .

The colour of heat .

 

Pastels and print .

Pastels and print .

 

Colours of Harar

Colours of Harar

 

One of the magnificent restorations in the old city . Rimbaud House.

One of the magnificent restorations in the old city . Rimbaud House.

 

Second of the five gates as we walked the streets.

Second of the five gates as we walked the streets.

 

Third , two to go .

Third , two to go .

 

The fourth

The fourth

The last , not the least .

The last , not the least .

 

The main road tat leads you in and out of the walled city.

The main road tat leads you in and out of the walled city.

 

So I emerged in a home for the age old tradition , the coffee ceremony , to take an hour of my time yet give me insight into a tradition that holds the old ways fiercely in a miniature cup of deep and black liquid extracted by art and ritual from the  bean  we all know as coffee . So it began with preparing the charcoal that would provide the flame and heat . Next the beans washed and placed over the heat to roast , the heat the first turn of the key to unlock the aroma hidden within .

 

Preparing the bean for pounding .

Preparing the bean for pounding .

 

Aroma to tease .

Aroma to tease .

Then the pounding and crushing of the roasted beans , followed by placing the freshly ground powder into the pot , placed on the coals to heat , before the first of three are poured , to gift you with , peace , then love then the third for peace and love . Do you think John Lennon and Yoko Ono drank too many cups of Ethiopian coffee ? I wonder .

 

More coffee foreplay . Smelling the freshly ground , my nostrils alive , please hurry .

More coffee foreplay . Smelling the freshly ground , my nostrils alive , please hurry .

Finally my first cup is handed over with a humble pride and a knowing  smile that tells me before my first sip , that this is going to be a life altering event  in my coffee life . First the aroma fills the deepest of recesses , trying to prepare you for what you are about to receive . The liquid gold touches my taste buds they can’ t understand what is happening , spontaneously I feel them doing the Mexican wave in my mouth , I hold the temptation to swallow , I savour the flavours , close my eyes so I have an extra sense on hand , let the liquid rest on my tonuge , I gently swallow to complete the ceremony , yes truly the best I have ever had .

While at the coffee ceremony , I was educated about the  Chat universe , not a physical enlightenment  but a verbal account of its tradition in Harari culture , the addictive nature of the plant as well as the mind altering properties it holds within its leaf , to be extracted by chewing on the leaves . Hallucinations , alertness and various other advatages Tedy tells me . You are able to remember what you have forgotten , not only that but it helps you think twice , helps you think twice I repeat , yes he tells me , no further explanation offered . So now with my education well underway  Tedy  explains the different grades , experiences to be had and how Harar chat is the best in the world . Should he get some for us to enjoy after coffee he asks ?  Having noticed the effects of chat on the Harari people I had to decline , but damn that coffee will live with me forever .

So next up to the view point to enjoy Harar at sunset before we head for the hyena’s and the men that feed them .

 

Tedy Zion , always the guide with funky hair .

Tedy Zion , always the guide with funky hair .

So the sun down we made our way out of the old city to the outskirts where the hyena men are . It starts with him calling them by name , apparently , I am told around 30 or 40 live around Harar  , and are basically fed in one of two locations . When I arrived about 10 hung around waiting for their commands . These predators , very obedient I thought ,  maybe to much so . I went down on my knees to await the beast to mount my shoulders and feed , so gently I felt her paws wrap around my shoulders while her weight pushed them down slightly , she turned her  jaws to devour the meat dangling above my head , so gentle she was , the command given , she left . I traded cash for experience and left back for the hotel , overflowing  with the intoxication  bottled in Harar.  I had met a couple from the UK earlier , John and Charlie , so we shared our travels over that superb wine the Rift valley produces and off to bed .

 

Easy tiger .

Easy tiger .

The next day , Tedy arrived to take me around further Harar highlights and delights , back to the old city to look at a few museum’s , shops and the tomb of the last King of Harar . Tedy not as attentive as the day before , I was coming to realise that Tedy  like a lot of Harar really enjoyed his chat , so the second day out was like been guided by the Duracell bunny , and chat did not help Tedy remember twice , actually not even once , yet I still really enjoyed my time hanging with Tedy Zion not from an educational perspective but the ability to enjoy a city with a citizen .

 

Breakfast on the street , boiled potato , fresh tomato , onion and chilli , special spice and coffee for three Rand .

Breakfast on the street , boiled potato , fresh tomato , onion and chilli , special spice and coffee for three Rand .

Interior of an Harari home.

Interior of an Harari home.

 

Resting place of the last King of Harar.

Resting place of the last King of Harar.

So my day and time in Harar was coming to an end , we started our exit from the city when a young woman called out, for  us to come back , she invited me in, to see her home , offered me some chat and coffee and so I sat down to enjoy the company have a chat without the chat . The conversation polite and enquiring , then was I married came up , after my answer so came the proposal to get married , I politely declined to laughter and banter all around , the last proposal was just to provide a child , as she told me , she has two breasts one for her existing child the other for the one I should provide  her , so amongst the chatter and  laughter I said my goodbyes with a heart full of joy for what Harar had shown me .

 

DSCN4888

So my final  night was shared with Dr Lemessa for a coffee and goodbye , then Charlie and John for dinner before I ride North and they fly South . I start my trip back to Addis , the two day return with another crossing of the bridge .

 

The Ras Hotel

The Ras Hotel

Ancient city with ancient ways thank you for the privilege .

Until we meet again.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail