The City of Harar

Harar, the capital city of Harari people’s Regional State is located in Eastern Ethiopia at 515 K.M from Addis Ababa, and it has a long history which is reflected by being registered as world heritage by UNESCO. Until the Harari People’s Regional State was established as an autonomous region, the city of Harar had served as the capital city of the former administrative region of Hararge.

Existing written sources show that Harar was established in the 10th century and it gained fame in relation to its role as East African commercial and Islamic center starting from 12th century. In particular, its strategic location on the route from central Ethiopia to Zeila port and the gradual expansion of Islam in Eastern Africa have contributed significantly to the growth of the city. Historical evidences took the establishment of Harar back to the 10th Century and, especially starting from the 14th century, strengthened its governmental sphere in the surrounding areas. In the 16th century, with the expansion and strengthening of the city’s role as commercial and religious center, and having its own currency, water supply, mosques and holy places, Harar became the capital of the Adal Sultanate. In general, even though the city was also known for its agriculture and other activities, its role as commercial and Islamic center was the remarkable manifestation of Harar’s power. Eventually, the prominence of Harar increased and its Islamic leaders used Harar as their base to subjugate the other parts of Ethiopia and expand Islam. In connection with the continuous waging of war by its leaders, the power of the city gradually declined and forced to defend itself from attacks from the surrounding groups, the Harari walled their city with Jugal during the time of by Amir Nur Ibn Mujahid. Afterwards, the security of the city was improved and the city continued to serve as an autonomous center of commerce and Islamic teachings until the 19th century. Thence, it was under the rule of Egyptians from 1875 – 1885 and following its liberation, it was ruled by its last Amir Abdullahi until Emperor Menilik II of Ethiopia incorporated it into his domain in 1887.

The major impact on the city of Harar as center of commerce came in line with the construction of the Ethio-Djibouti railway around 1902, and took over an age old caravan trade. Afterwards, even though its commercial activities were not as robust as they had been, the city changed itself into a living museum embracing more than 80 mosques and 250 shrines and preserving itself as a holy Islamic city being encircled by Jugal wall. As a result, the city was registered as world heritage by UNESCO in 2006. In addition to these, having registered steadily improving conditions for residents with strong social ties and tolerance, Harar has been selected and awarded by UNESCO as the city of peace in 2002/3.

Establishment of the Harari Region

The current political structure of the country comprises of nine independent regional states and two city administrations. Based on this, the Harari region is fully recognized according to Proclamation No. 71/1984-3.64. In addition, in the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia that is approved on 21/8/1995 and, in particular, in Article 47, sub-Article 1, and Sub-article 9 of the Proclamation to determine autonomous regions in the federal structure, it is clearly stated that the Harari region is an autonomous one.

Documents attested that, though, compared to other federal regions of Ethiopia, the Harari region is the smallest in terms of its area and population number, both the transitional and the federal government took historical, political and social grounds in order to forward the decision for the establishment of the Harari as an autonomous federal region.

Although the establishment process of Harari as a regional state has many basic justifications, it is well acknowledged that the history of its people takes the lion`s share. In addition to the fact that the Harari are linked with the Harla people and had been self-ruled for a long period of time and built their city, the existence of the city as a center of commerce in East Africa, as a center of Islamic teachings and art surrounded by the Jugal wall where houses, edifices and mosques were built in their own cultural form, and also as the Holy Islamic center, are the basic points. Furthermore, the preservation of their own language that is of Semitic family, being surrounded by the Cushitic languages spoken around deserves credit as well. Besides, in the old days the Harari were known for minting their own currency, manufacturing of a variety of fabrics and craft products, import and export trade, and had their own influences on Ethiopian history which adds to the rationales to be self ruled.

Based on these facts and other additional issues, the Harari People’s National Regional State was established as an autonomous federal region. The region has a wide ethnic composition with most of the Oromos living in the rural areas. The relationship between these two ethnic groups in economy, culture, history and marriage has caused the region to have its particular political structure.

Previously the region has 2 districts (Woredas), 17 sub districts (Kebeles) and 36 sub-localities (sub-kebeles). However, in 2015/2016, as per the approval of the Cabinet of the region, it is restructured with 9 Woredas that comprise 36 Kebeles.

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