Harar is an eastern Ethiopia city not too far from the borders of Somalia and Somailand. It is famous it’s old walled city, Harar Jugol, and for having been a major commercial center for centuries connecting Ethiopia with the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It is also a place where you can feed wild hyenas right outside the walled city in the nights.
Declared a world heritage site by Unesco in 2006, it has a very strong middle eastern feel as it is the Islamic heart of Ethiopia with 110 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century and 102 shrines. It also has 368 alleyways squeezed into just 1 sq km making for a really interesting place to wander as the homes are also painted in loud colors.
Written records indicate the presence of hyenas in Harar over 500 years ago and there is also a long-standing tradition where locals began feeding spotted hyenas since the 1960’s to prevent them to eating livestock, and now it continues as a tourist attraction.
How to get there
You can either take a bus from Addis Ababa (Meskel Square around 5am) to Harar, around 10-13 hours. At the time of my visit only Geda Bus was running (normally many other companies should be running this trip, and costs 300 Birr (around $10 USD/Euro). If you are short on time or prefer to fly, there are flights to nearby Dire Dawa, around 1 hour drive from Harar.
Where to stay
I stayed at Anisa Guesthouse which is nicely tucked into the maze of alleyways deep within the old walled city. Rooms here are clean and 400 Birr a night.
How to visit the hyenas
You can either hop in a tuk tuk and be taken to the hyena men, or do as I did and just walk over as the locations are saved on Maps.me, and I recommend the Northern feeding site. I paid 100 birr to feed them.
I also went to Bahir Dar, which is famous for 3 things (at least)
- Being the best and prettiest city in Ethiopia (a few hours north of Addis), according to Ethiopians (I saw this with the tree lined avenues, parks and lots of green areas.
- It is the gateway to the impressive Lake Tana, which is the biggest in Ethiopia and home to hippos and islands with famous churches and monasteries that have impressive art inside.
- It is also near the famous Blue Nile waterfalls around an hour and a half away.
I was lucky enough to visit both the monasteries which you do by boat on Lake Tana and I also took a trip out to the famous Blue Nile waterfalls. The Blue Nile of Ethiopia that originates from Lake Tana and the White Nile of Uganda end up joining forces in Sudan to make the impressive River Nile that flows through both Sudan and most famously, Egypt.
The drive to the waterfalls is filled with nice landscapes including villages you pass and observe the farmer’s lifestyle with people transiting mostly by foot moving their animals to graze on pastures and carrying wood for cooking and fetching and carrying containers of water.
How to get there
Bahir Dar is accessible by bus both from Lalibela (around 5 hours) and Addis Ababa (around 12 hours). Or if you are short on time or prefer to fly, can fly there. To get to the monasteries on the lake you can just go to the lake and arrange a boat on your own, or through a tour company like BD Backpacker Tours. For the Blue Nile Falls you can get public transportation for a long, dusty and bumpy ride past beautiful villages, or also arrange a tour with a local company.
Where to stay
There are many place in Bahir Dar, and I stayed at the Manuhie Backpackers Lodge which has a nice social atmosphere, friendly and helpful staff and organized my Lake Tana and Blue Nile Falls tours.
My stay in Harar was kindly sponsored by Anisa Guesthouse while my stay in Bahir Dar and tour by were kindly sponsored by Manuhie Backpackers, but of course all views are my own.
More posts on Ethiopia:
Amazing rock carved churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia