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Harar

From Academic Kids

Harar, sometimes spelled Harrar or Harer, is a city in Ethiopia situated in the eastern extension of the Ethiopian highlands, about five hundred km from Addis Ababa. It is located on a hilltop, with an elevation of 1885 meters. It is the capital of the modern Harari ethno-political division (or kilil) of Ethiopia.

For centuries, Harar has been a major commercial center, linked by the trade routes with the rest of Ethiopia, the entire Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and, through its ports, the outside world.

Called "Gey" ("the City") by its inhabitants, Harar was founded between the 7th and the 11th century (according to different sources) and emerged as the center of Islamic culture and religion in the Horn of Africa. It preserved its political and cultural independence from the rest of Ethiopia for centuries, and in 1520 it became the capital of an independent Muslim kingdom. From Harar, Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi, also known as "Gragn the Left-handed," launched a war of conquest in the sixteenth century that extended its territory and even threatened the existence of the Abyssinian Christian empire. His successor, Emir Nur ibn-Mujahid, encircled the city with a wall, 4 meters high and with five gates. This wall, called Jugol, is still intact, and is a symbol of the town to the inhabitants.

The sixteenth century was the Golden Age of Harar. The local culture flourished, and many poets lived and wrote there. The city managed to maintain its independence until 1875, when it was conquered by Egypt. Ten years later, it managed to regain its independence, but this lasted only two years, and the city was incorporated into the Christian Ethiopian Empire of Menelik II.

The inhabitants of Harar represent several ethnic groups, both Christian and Muslim, including Amhara, Oromo, Somali, Gurage, Tigré, and others. Nevertheless, within the walled city, the indigenous Harari are predominant. The Harari, who refer to themselves as Gey 'Usu ("People of the City") are a Semitic people that originally crossed into Africa from southern Arabia. Today, they are most commonly classed as a social and cultural, rather than as a distinct ethnic, group since most families have intermingled with the neighboring groups, and were welcoming of foreigners into their community. Their language constitutes a Semitic pocket in a predominantly Cushitic region. Originally written in the Arabic script, it has recently converted to Geez alphabet.

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