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Harar ( The American Cyclopaedia Volume8)

Author : George Ripley, Charles Anderson Dana

Year : 1883

HARAR, Bum, or Adarl, a small country, with an important town of the same name, in E. Africa, lat. 9° 20′ N., Ion. 42° 17′ E., 165 m. 8. 8. W. of Zeylah on the gulf of Aden; pop. estimated at 8,000. The town is situated on a gentle slope about 5,500 ft. above the sea. On

the east are cultivated fields; the W. ridge is laid out in orchards; the N. side is covered with tombs; and on the south is a low valley traversed by a mountain torrent. It is surrounded by a wall of stone and mud, about 12 ft. high and 3 ft. thick, and kept in good repair. The wall has five gates flanked by oval towers, and encloses an area about a mile long and half a mile broad. The streets are narrow winding lanes, in many places nearly choked up with rubbish. The houses are generally built of rough stone cemented with clay, and whitewashed. The emir and the principal inhabitants have houses of two stories, with flat roofs, and openings high up for windows. These houses stand at the end of large courtyards, which are entered through gates of holcus stalks. There are numerous gambita, bellshaped thatched cottages, for the poorer classes. The principal buildings are mosques, the finest being the jami, or chief mosque, which was built by Turkish architects. The town is supplied with water from numerous springs in its vicinity. The inhabitants are a distinct race, and speak a dialect which is heard nowhere else. They are rigid Mohammedans, and enforce a law which forbids a white man to enter the town. The features of the men are coarse; many squint; others are disfigured by smallpox, scrofula, and other diseases. The women are nearly as ill-looking as the men. There is a proverb current in eastern Africa, ” Hard as the heart of Harar.” High and low indulge freely in intoxicating drinks. The principal occupation of the people is tilling the soil, which for several miles around is highly cultivated, producing coffee, wheat, jowari, barley, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. The kaat, a small plant of an intoxicating quality, is very abundant. Coffee is the most important article produced, and large quantities of it are annually exported. Other exports aro slaves, ivory, tobacco, wars (safflower, or bastard saffron), tobes and woven cottons, holcus, wheat, Jcaranji (a kind of bread), ghee, honey, gums, tallow, and mules. The hand-woven tobes form an important branch of native industry, and are considered equal to the celebrated cloths of Shoa. The tobe consists of a double length of eleven cubits by two in breadth, with a border of bright scarlet, and the average value of one in the city itself is about $8. It is made of the long fine-stapled cotton which grows upon the hills, and is soft as silk, and warm enough for winter wear. The thread is spun by women with two wooden pins; the loom is worked by both sexes. The lances made in Harar are held in high estimation. Caravans arrive at all seasons. The principal are those which pass between Harar and Berbera and Zeylah, which may be considered as the porta of Harar. The March caravan is the largest, and usually consists of 2,000 camels. As of old, Harar is still the great half-way house for slaves from Zangaro, Gurague, and the Galla tribes. Harar is governed as an independent sovereignty by an emir, who rules despotically, and seeks to hide hi9 Galla extraction by claiming descent from the caliph Abubekr. The only white man known to have visited the place is the English traveller Richard F. Barton, who penetrated thither in 1855, and who described it in his ” First Footsteps in East Africa, or an Exploration of Harar ” (London, 1856).