Ethiopia 09 p5


The last place I still wanted to see (that I could do within my time constraints) was Harar, a whole other world from the Amhara North as it's a Muslim city in the east of the country. There are no flights direct to Harar so I would have to pass by Dire Dawa, which was an opportunity to see yet another different place, as it was apparently built by the French and still looks like a well-planned French village. But I would see it last: first I hopped on a minibus straight to Harar.

The low-budget hotel I stayed at was known for offering a view onto the outside of the city (Harar is still enclosed in a wall) where hyenas roamed. The parking lot above was the view from my room, and indeed, after sunset I could both hear and see hyenas walking across it. It has become a stupid white tourist attraction to go with the "hyena man" feed the hyenas in Harar. If you go to Harar, for God's sake, don't be a stupid white tourist. This idiotic practice has made them lose their fear of human beings, with the result that now, when they're hungry, they maul people. This is the kind of tourism-induced degradation that makes me feel white people should not be allowed to travel anywhere outside the Western world.

Harar deserves better. It's a lovely, colorful city dotted with many tiny household mosques that look like toys, and where people are noticeably more relaxed and friendly than elsewhere. Not that I didn't encounter the would-be con men, but even they were more amicable, and walked away the moment I said no.

I stopped somewhere for tea, and had a conversation with an old man who was delighted to practice his Arabic, and informed me proudly that his daughter was working in Beirut. I also chatted with a souvenir shop owner, and later with a nun who wanted to welcome me, both in French... The Arabic is explained by the presence of Islam, and the French by the proximity of Djibouti!

There are 3 interesting museums in Harar, but they are all very quick visits.

Museum presenting the traditional Harari house

"Rambo" house

Rimbaud would roll in his grave (or maybe he'd find it hysterical, I don't know) to know that the house he lived in, now a museum, is referred to as Rambo house by the locals. Not that it really is his house, that one's gone. But he did live in Harar, and this museum has a very nice exhibit of photos he shot, many of which show the town as it was in his time – fascinating!

One more museum, featuring Muslim Ethiopian manuscripts...

It was at my Harar hotel that I flipped through the menu in the morning to find an item I had never heard before: "securable eggs"! I was hundreds of kilometers away before their true nature hit me...

And so I took a minibus back, which turned out to have been a wise decision because we had barely started when the clouds burst and the rain season began with a bang!

Outside the Harar walls, one of the gates visible in the background

On the road to Dire Dawa

Dire Dawa

It was indeed odd to walk around a properly planned town, but the organized aspect only went so far. The market where I headed in search for a last few interesting sights was not French in any way. Also, people were laughing at the "faranji" again, so most of the photos here are hip shots I took while walking and pretending not to take photos. Actually most people there looked astonished to see me, so foreigners probably don't often bother to drop by.

Did not see those coming! COOL!

Walking back to the hotel for the last time, I passed by a church at prayer time, and witnessed an impressive scene: the large, white-clad congregation filled both church and courtyard, and overflowed across the street. All were prostrate, following mass with entranced piety.

Amusingly, a near-similar sceneoffered itself to my eyes the next morning, but this time it was a multicolored crowd apparently following a football match on a giant screen outside the train station.

My final experience of Dire Dawa was a visitor at the airport...

This wasn't quite the end of my trip as my flight to Addis was in the morning, but the one back to Beirut was late at night. What to do with my luggage so I could go for a wander? I plucked up my Lebanese cheek and went to see if I could get it checked in, uh, 8 hours in advance. It only took a little pleading on my part, and off walking I went.

I had already spotted that the airport is across the street from the city; that area is called Bole Road, and as it has to cater to short-stay visitors, it's rather well-provided. I browsed a little, picked up some fantastic crafted items from a women's charity shop, and then, spotting a local Starbucks lookalike, decided that this may be a good substitute for my usual coffeeshop for a few hours. I ordered a "tea latte" or something of the sort, and sat down with my notebook, instantly focused on the script I was trying to finish. A strand of my attention noted the cup of hot water, with teabag and milk on the side – quite a bit more civilized than Starbucks itself. I was pleasantly surprised when I took my first sip: it was tasty, while all the tea I'd had on this trip had been very tasteless.
I was there a long time. When at last I drained my cup, still bent over my writing, the waitress came swiftly to take it away. From the corner of my eye I perceived her freezing for a second before moving away with the cup. I vaguely wondered what could have startled her, but forgot about it almost instantly.

A while later, as I left the café and started walking in the bright sunlight, I suddenly realized.
I had never put the teabag in the cup.
I'd had a delicious cup of milk, and given one waitress definite proof that the faranji, they are truly crazy.