Home     Harer the medieval wall city       The History                  Updated 15 Feb 2006       Page    15
   Harer the medieval walled city
  'Assum Bari' one of the 5 gates in Harer at 1897  
Hareri handmade Baskets
Medane Alem ready after construction at 1895
The 'Megala Kudo' market in Harer at 1907 

  Nobody is certain at what period Harer was established. It could be that merchants from neighboring Yemen, following the trade route and taking advantage of the natural location, an elevated plateau surrounded by mountains with an easy access to the coastal line, settled there as a midway stop between southern Arabia and the Ethiopian highlands.  Most historians agree that around the 7th  century an early settlement was established there.

 During the 10th century the Makhzumi sultanate was established in Shoa.  At 1285 it was conquered by Wali Asma having a distiguist Arabic ancestry. It was named the ĎWalasma dynastyí. While Wali Asmaís successors were expanding to the East, they established the sultanate of ĎIfatí.

 During the reign of Amde Tseyon, hostilities started between Ifat and the Christian kingdom resulting to the defeat of its Muslim leaders. Later on their sons created the sultanate of Adal and established their capital Dakar in the vicinity of todayís Harer.  Prosperity came for the sultanate of Adal mainly through trade but fighting started with the highlands kingdom again.

 Around 1445 sultan Badlayudi was defeated by the emperor Zara Yakob and the Adalites had to retreat.

 At 1468 the sultan,ís son and successor Mohamed started trade having good relations with the kingdomís Baeda Mariam.  But after Mohamedís death, conflict stirred up again and Baeda Mariam moving his base to the Gourage province, fighting started in Dawaro and Bale.

 At 1478 Baeda Mariamís  6 year old successor Iskinder, accented to the throne and the Queen mother Eleni, an influencial and capable woman, being  the regent of Iskinder as well as to his successor Naod (1494-1508) Baeda Mariamís second son .  She was aware of the wider Muslim world and try to achieve good relations with Adal.

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Dedjazmatch Imerou and accompanying party ( 1920 ) 
Ato Markan, a police chief and his guards in Harer at 1898
Ras Tafari Makonen when he was 18 years old

Sultan Mohamed (1488-1518) who reigned there for 40 years, was agreeable with her but the Emir of Harer Mahfooz who was wedging war against the Kingdom.

 At 1508 Naodís reign came to an end after he was killed in Ifat campaigning against the Muslims. His son Lebna Dengel was only 7 years old when he had to rule with Eleni being again his regent. She had foresight and in order to match the help the aid the muslim state received from Arabia send Mateus an Armenian emissary to Portugal asking for support. He reached the royal court of king Manoel on 1514 but it took until 1520 until the Portuguese send a mission to Ethiopia.

 Meanwhile at 1516 emir Mahfuz invaded the highlands and Lebna Dengel in a successful ambush slew him and chased his army back to their territory. Lebna Dengel returned home as hero declaring the Muslim offensives to an end. Meanwhile the Portuguese mission had arrived in Massawa and Lebna Dengel without understanding Queen mother Eleniís foresight, (see was old and retired in Gojjam) send them away denying any commitment !

 At 1520 a young warrior, Ahmed bin Ibrahin, otherwise known Gragn the left-handed, after assassinating Adalís sultan Abu Baker started new attacks on the kingdom from Harer.  Grangís vision was to conquer the Christian kingdom.

 At 1529 he inflicted a heavy defeat for Debna Dengelís forces and again at 1531 he started a new and well planned invasion of the highlands. Burning Churches and forcibly converting any captured Christians to the Moslim faith.  Scholars write ďGragn campaigns destroyed Ethiopiaís literary, architectural and cultural heritageĒ

 At 1540 Emperor Geladewos (Claudios) at 18 he ascended to the throne and although in a grim situation he marched his people and soldiers to fight the enemy.

 On February the year 1541 Vasco da Gama' son reached Massawa with 400 Portuguese musketeers. They bring canons, arms, gunpowder and 150 other craftsmen. It took them several months move their way with difficulty from the port of Massawa to the highlands of Tigray. 

Assum Bari' one of the 5 gates in Harer
 at 1897  
Men after the capture of Harer 1885
Medane Alem ready after construction at 1895
in   A street scene in Harer at 1907 
Foreigners in Harer. This picture was taken in front of the French Consul's house at 1897
Ato Markan, a police chief and his guards in Harer at 1898

Arthur Rimbaud, pictured in the middle,, the flamboyant Parisian poet, abandoned the life of Parisian literary circles to settle in an adventurous  lifestyle in Harer! 

   Ethiopian warriors joint them and moving their way through Tigray engaged Gragnís armies several times and making good advance using effectively their European weapons. Gragn was alarmed and requested help from the Turks which in response send him 900 men reinforcements. At that point near Lake Tana the Portuguese were surrounded by Gragnís forces and they captured 120 men killing Da Gama.

 Geladewos used of some quantities of  hidden weapons in Debre Damo earlier and producing locally gunpoweder! Then with the help of the remaining Portuguese, on February 1543 took Gragnís forces by surprise again by Lake Tana while the Portuguese fought ferociously avenging the killing of their leader Da Gama. Reportedly a musketeer single handedly dashed and killed Gragn at close range ! It was the personal guard of christobao Da Gama. After that Gragnís forces were dispersed but his wife escaped with the remnant of Turkish contingency. In 1545 Geladewos pushed back the Muslim forces beyond Bale. Later on Gragnís wife Bati Gambara return to Harer to persuade his lieutenants to start fighting again. See agreed to marry Gragnís nephew Nur bin Mujahid under the condition that he would avenge Gragnís defeat.

 At 1550 he build the historic wall with battlements around the city of Harer they are still an impressive site up to our days!  Although Geladewos captured Harer and killed its sultan Barakat, the last of the Walasma line, on 1559 he was also killed at a battle with Emir Nur which he lived until 1567 !

 At 1647 Harer an indigenous dynasty was founded by Ali bin Daud lasting over two centuries. The Emirs kept busy in one hand fighting and on the other converting them to Islam. Later on, as Harer was situated ideally between the Highlands and the coastal line, trade was improving and Harer gradually developed to a commercial city.

 Foreigners especial Christians were not allowed to enter the city. A British traveler and explorer Sir Richard Burton at 1855, was the first person to visit Harer disguised as a Muslim merchant. He stayed there for 10 days and later published at 1856 the ĎExploration of Harerí from which we have learned the everyday life of the city at that time! 

At 1875 after killing its emir Amit Abdul Shakur, Egyptian army captured Harer. At that time the city ceased to be an independent city state and it opened its gates for foreigners. During  that time, Arthur Rimbaud, the flamboyant Parisian poet, abandoned the life of Parisian literary circles to settle in an adventurous  lifestyle in Harer! 

 A decade later at 1884, the Egyptian plans for an ĎEst Afrikan empireí collapsed and they left Harer.  Emir Abdalah expelled once again all foreigners but had to confront king Menelik from Shoa and on January 1887 was defeated at the battle of Tchelenqo. Soon after Harer was annexed to the Ethiopian empire and Menelik appointed his cousin, Ras Makonen father of Ras Tafari, later to be emperor Heile Selassie, governor of Harer. The local administration was given to the nephew of the emir he had defeated.

In 1907 the operation of the newly build railway line between Addis Abeba  and the port of Djibuti created a new city Diredawa. This changed the trade route entirely and Harer changed for ever.

 At 1925, an other European visitor Rosita Forbs visited Harer while Ras Tafari was ruling there and se wrote a descriptive book, from the Red sea to the blue Nile. She also warned the authorities of an eminent Italian invasion!

 At 1935 the Italian forces entered Harer. During their stay, Italian engineers restored the ĎBadri Barií one of Harerís 5 gates looking to the South West.

  Harer was again in danger: just after 1977 under the rule of Siad Bare, Somalian forces invaded the Ogaden. Not far from Harer and outside Jijiga at a decisive tank battle the Somali forces suffered a humiliating defeat and retreated. 


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