Cultural Competitions and Games

Cultural competitions and games are social activities which have long history in any society and are handed down from generation to generation. They build physical, spiritual and psychological connection between the past and future. These games begin with the life style, culture, history and religion of a society and gradually take up certain distinctive features and contents becoming part of social feature.

Cultural games instill sense of competition; hence, they have different social benefits. Games and competitions inherently demand cooperation and mutual support among participants; thus, installing sense of belongingness. In addition, these competitions and games have considerable significance in teaching tolerance and acceptance of the outcomes. These cultural events may be age and sex-bound or, allow the participation of every member of the society. Commonly, these activities are undertaken from early age. As the result, they have the power of enabling children to understand their surroundings, learn about their community and their history, express themselves, and understand their status and roles in their society.

Cultural competitions and games are the foundation of modern sports which have become the largest recreational industry and base of economy at global level. As a result, relevant policies are designed and made to take up a form of institution in order to give the culture recognition at national and international levels. Promoting these social assets would not only enhance the tradition but also contribute a lot to the growth of tourism.

To say the least, the Harari have extensive cultural asset related to their history, life style, and religious rituals. Among these cultural competitions and games, “Berti berti”, “Agri agri”, and “Hortelam” are important.

Berti Berti

“Berti Berti” is a cultural game of the Harari which has close ties with the history and religion of the people. The game takes place in remembrance of the battle of Bedri in which prophet Mohammad waged the first successful war; and it is observed on the 17th (Bedri day) and the 27th day (on which Qur’an fully descended upon the prophet) of the Ramadan month.

This cultural game is played primarily to enable adolescents and youth get martial training so that they acquire the skills needed to defend their territory and protect themselves from potential attacks. The game takes place outside Jugal wall. It is held among competitors which make groups and come to the sight singing patriotic songs. There are types of songs which are sung at the beginning as well as the end of the matches. Some verses of such songs are presented below in their literal meaning:

You the ones of Bedri bari - come nearer It is not the bone - come nearer It is of a meat - come nearer Chop it for them - come nearer Lest it is stuck in their gullet - come nearer Groups who come from the direction of their respective doors challenge one another as one-to-one, two-to-two, or group versus group. The winners then go to the village of the vanquished and sing victory songs. We smashed her territory And sung songs to our victory

Agri Agri

Like “Berti berti”, “Agriagri” is a cultural game of martial training of the Harari youth which takes place at the New Year of the Hijra calendar and during the festivity of “Eid Al Adaha”.

At the start of this game the competitors sing: My fasting is my shield It delivers from fire And, after the match, the competitors return to Qur’an Gey together singing the following song:

You the bird of the Kibir - come, come The mother of Kibir Let the religion shine Let Iman shine


This is a kind of game in which teenagers jump on fire during “Shawal Eid” celebration and sometimes, held at village level. The teenagers sing the following verses when they collect fire wood and leaves needed to set the fire.

Greatness is like a sea One stick for Abadir May you live long….

At the evening, the wood that the teenagers collected is set on fire and they held the competition of jumping over the fire.

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City of Hareri

In the last two and half decades of self-administration, Harari People’s Regional State has exerted every effort to maintain, develop and promote the culture, language and heritage of its people.

H.E. Ato Murad Abdulhadi  

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