Meanwhile I'm getting even more confused; the hotel receptionist speaks just like the gay-sounding kid, Fez, in 'That '70s Show,' the same labial contortions, the same inclinations of the head, the same grimaces. I have to hit myself below the belt, repeatedly, to stop imitating him.
|Harar street with flowering tree|
Harar's setting is splendid, overlooking green plains and valleys with a backdrop of wooded mountains scattered with mosques and churches. Inside the town there is plenty of green, too, as well as the reds, mauves, yellows and orange of flamboyans, bougainvillea and other trees. The 1,200-year-old city, right in the heart of the Moslem part of Ethiopia, was an emirate until Emperor Menelik II, victor over the Italians at Adwa, captured it in the late 19th century as part of his efforts to ward off Rome's imperialism. In the process, he killed off the last emir and several hundred others in a nice little massacre.
Many houses are being painted in bright greens, pinks and other colours in honour of the upcoming ramadan. There are six main gates and 360 streets in the old city, plus several little cubbyhole 'gates' built by its founder for scavenger hyenas to enter and clean up the refuse every night.
|Gate to old city|
|Old city market street|
Outside, the good citizens of Harar couldn't care a damn about rifle, sword or Haile's dad. They're far too gone on qat already, though it's only morning, lolling on the cobblestones by the piles of spices and whirling sowing machines.
|Old city alley|
Laughing Hyenas - Yes, laughing hyenas really do sound like the maniacal guffaws you get at an executive board meeting of your favourite company. In a centuries-old tradition there are several sites round the walls of old Harar where men feed the hyenas every night - it's considered good luck to do so – draping bits of meat around sticks that they put in their own mouths while the spotted dog-like creatures with the low-slung back chassis come up and snatch them (the bits of meat, that is).
|Qat taking its toll|
|Old city main square with old mosque, now a church|
|Inside mosque, now church|
|Brightly painted for Ramadan|
|Haile Selassie's palace|
|Old city's main mosque|
|First Emir's tomb|
|Hyenas in car headlights - without flash|