Located in the eastern part of Ethiopia, Harar is one of the most important historic destinations. Founded by Sheikh Aw Abadir and 43 other saints in 940 in the early 16th century, besides Harar has been ruled by successive Muslim sultanates and still it is the major Muslim dominated part of the country. Being so, Harar is the fourth Muslim sacred city next to Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem, with more than 100 mosques and shrines. Harar is also spearheaded Islam’s penetration into the Horn. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Harar became an important center of Islamic scholarship. It still holds special significance for Ethiopia’s Muslim people and 99 mosques names of God referred to the Quran and still 82 of them remain active. For years, the city was closed to Christians. In 1854 Richard Burton, the famous British explorer, was the first non- Muslim to penetrate the city. Before one year he was secretly in Mecca and the following year he came to Harar and stay 10 years. Later the bustling commercial town attracted many foreign merchants from India, Armenia, England and France.
The famous French PHTTA Arthur Rimbaud spent some of his last years here after some 25 years of Richard Burton. In 1887 the city surrendered to the Emperor Menelik, who sought to expand and unify his highland empire. Homing the Harari (Adare), Somali, Argoba, Oromo tribes Harar stays an exemplary town for religious harmony and tolerance between Muslim and Christian Ethiopians. The Great walls surrounding the old Harar town were built in the mid 16th century by one of Harar’s most notable rulers, Amir Nur Ibn al-Wazir Mujahid, to protect themselves against the attack of neighboring tribes, with its 5 gates and 368 alleyways squeezed into just 1 sq km and the wall is 4m high. The walled Harar’s economic fortunes suffered a serious blow at the end of the 19th century when the Addis Ababa - Djibouti railway was diverted to Dire Dawa. To these days the city retains a somewhat isolated, inward-looking feel. The people of Harar have their own ethnic identity, language and culture.