NEGOTAIATING SOCIAL AND SPIRITUAL WORLDS The Gender of Sanctity in a Muslim City in Africa

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Author : Camilla Gibb

Inhabitants of the city of Harar, in eastern Ethiopia, refer to their city as
madlnat al-awliyd’, the “city of saints.” Although this epithet is not unique to Harare Residents
of at least one other city, Baghdad, refer to their city as such-the number and
density of shrines located within and just beyond the wall that bounds this small city, as
well as the relatively high percentage of these shrines devoted to female saints, are quite
remarkable. Some 60,000 people and 356 saints, or awliyd’ (sing. wal ), as many as ten
percent of them female, reside in an area of approximately nine square kilometers.’