Author : Major H. G. C. SWAYNE, R.E.

Year : 1903

Harar was an Arab state peopled by a mixed population of
Arabs, SomAlis, Gallas, and half-breeds, collectively called Hararis,
the city itself garrisoned by Egypt. It was a magnificent highland
country of agricultural land and tropical forests, often rising
to an elevation of some nine thousand feet, if not more ; its slopes
descended on the east to Somililand, and on the west to the
great Hawash Eiver depression ; beyond was Shoa, one of the
kingdoms of Abyssinia.
History tells us of conflicts between Christian Abyssinia and
the Mahommedan state of Harar from time to time; but the
pine-clad passes of entry from the Hawash were difficult to force
and easily defended. Harar was safe and isolated, and the
soldiers of Abyssinia and Harar alike were indifferently armed
with spears, shields, and antiquated muskets.
When Egypt proposed withdrawing from Harar in 1884, two
separate missions were sent up from Aden to Harar to report on
the military situation, and to facOitate the withdrawal of the
Egyptian troops.
Harar was practically in our hands, and it is conceivable that
could later events have been foreseen, and considering its undoubted
commercial value, it might have remained under our
Though the fact was not likely to have been recognised in
the state of our knowledge at the time, Harar offered a valuable
buffer-state, which, if strengthened and supported, might have
kept apart the well-armed Abyssinians, who are Christians, from
the badly-armed Somdlis, who are Mahommedans. But at that
time the influx of arms had scarcely begun, and Abyssinian
restlessness was not so apparent.
Be that as it may, the British saw the Egyptians safely down
to Zeyla, and set up an old Arab family government, that of
the Emir Abdillahi, with a comparatively weak escort of Hararis,
armed with muskets and rifles,