1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Harrar

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HARRAR (or Harar), a city of N.E. Africa, in 8° 45′ N., 42° 36′ E., capital of a province of Abyssinia and 220 m. S.S.W. of the ports of Zaila (British) and Jibuti (French) on the Gulf of Aden. With Jibuti it is connected by a railway (188 m. long) and carriage-road. Harrar is built on the slopes of a hill at an elevation of over 5000 ft. A lofty stone wall, pierced by five gates and flanked by twenty-four towers, encloses the city, which has a population of about 40,000. The streets are steep, narrow, dirty and unpaved, the roadways consisting of rough boulders. The houses are in general made of undressed stone and mud and are flat-topped, the general aspect of the city being Oriental and un-Abyssinian. A few houses, including the palace of the governor and the foreign consulates, are of more elaborate and solid construction than the majority of the buildings. There are several mosques and an Abyssinian church (of the usual circular construction) built of stone. Harrar is a city of considerable commercial importance, through it passing all the merchandise of southern Abyssinia, Kaffa and Galla land. The chief traders are Abyssinians, Armenians and Greeks. The principal article of export is coffee, which is grown extensively in the neighbouring hills and is of the finest quality. Besides coffee there is a large trade in durra, the kat plant (used by the Mahommedans as a drug), ghee, cattle, mules and camels, skins and hides, ivory and gums. The import trade is largely in cotton goods, but every kind of merchandise is included.

Harrar is believed to owe its foundation to Arab immigrants from the Yemen in the 7th century of the Christian era. In the region of Somaliland, now the western part of the British protectorate of that name, the Arabs established the Moslem state of Adel or Zaila, with their capital at Zaila on the Gulf of Aden. In the 13th century the sultans of Adel enjoyed great power. In 1521 the then sultan Abubekr transferred the seat of government to Harrar, probably regarding Zaila as too exposed to the attacks of the Turkish and Portuguese navies then contending for the mastery of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Abubekr’s successor was Mahommed III., Ahmed ibn Ibrahim el-Ghazi (1507–1543), surnamed Gran (Granyé), the left-handed. He was not an Arab but, probably, of Somali origin. The son of a noted warrior, he quickly rose to supreme power, becoming sultan or amir in 1525. He is famous for his invasion of Abyssinia, of which country he was virtual master for several years. From the beginning of the 17th century Adel suffered greatly from the ravages of pagan Galla tribes, and Harrar sank to the position of an amirate of little importance. It was first visited by a European in 1854 when (Sir) Richard Burton spent ten days there in the guise of an Arab. In 1875 Harrar was occupied by an Egyptian force under Raouf Pasha, by whose orders the amir was strangled. The town remained in the possession of Egypt until 1885, when the garrison was withdrawn in consequence of the rising of the Mahdi in the Sudan. The Egyptian garrison and many Egyptian civilians, in all 6500 persons, left Harrar between November 1884 and the 25th of April 1885, when a son of the ruler who had been deposed by Egypt was installed as amir, the arrangement being carried out under the superintendence of British officers. The new amir held power until January 1887, in which month Harrar was conquered by Menelek II., king of Shoa (afterwards emperor of Abyssinia). The governorship of Harrar was by Menelek entrusted to Ras Makonnen, who held the post until his death in 1906.

The Harrari proper are of a distinct stock from the neighbouring peoples, and speak a special language. Harrarese is “a Semitic graft inserted into an indigenous stock” (Sir R. Burton, First Footsteps in East Africa). The Harrari are Mahommedans of the Shafa’i or Persian sect, and they employ the solar year and the Persian calendar. Besides the native population there are in Harrar colonies of Abyssinians, Somalis and Gallas. By the Somalis the place is called Adari, by the Gallas Adaray.

See Abyssinia; Somaliland. Also P. Paulitschke, Harar: Forschungsreise nach den Somâl- und Galla-Ländern Ost-Afrikas (Leipzig, 1888).