OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Further apologies to the cycling fans! I’ve been smashing through various writing projects during my time off in Hong Kong (putting out 10,000 words a day into various tasks) and catching up on blogs is one of them. Back in January 2014 I headed into the former British protectorate of Somaliland. On the overland route to the country from Ethiopia I stopped in several places along the way, one of the most fascinating being Harar, well known for it’s urban Hyena’s…

For over a thousand years Harar has stood high up in the Ethiopian highlands serving as a major hub for islam in the Horn of Africa. The centre is littered with scores of mosques along the winding alleyways of the old town, all encased in the ancient city wall…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Legendary British explorer Richard Burton, famed as the first westerner to reach Mecca in disguise, cites Harar as the source of the Khat plant. The Khat leaf provides a mild stimulant effect when chewed and has proved highly addictive to population in the region. You will see many locals with green flecks in their teeth as they chew away.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tree growing on top of a shrine on the outskirts of Harar.

Whilst the city has many interesting sights, including a former residence of the Ethiopian King of Kings, Haile Selassie (still going by the name Ras Tafari at that time), there was one thing my friend Dylan and I had really come here to see.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View of the new part of Harar.

We fuelled up on a lunch of “Special Tibs”, goat meat fried with spices and vegetables. Nearly all meals in Ethiopia are served with a generous side of Injeera bread. Quite differant to most bread around the world Injeera consists of a sponge like pancake that is presented rolled up. The fermentation process, that provides the bread its volume, also leaves a fairly sour flavour that is not to everyones tastes…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Personally I love it. You tear away strips of the bread and use them to pick up some chunks of the main course before popping them in your mouth. Due to the high muslim population of the city not everywhere sells beer (despite the acclaimed local brewery which you can visit) and malt drinks serve to fill the void…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You’ll most likely find yourself being constantly approached by young men in Harar offering their services as tour guides. In the end we recruited one of them, more to stop us being constantly approached by other guides than any real need to be shown around the centre.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ras Tafari’s former residence in Harer.

Circling all over the town are various birds of prey, especially near the butchers market. You can grab a few cheap chunks of meat and feed them if you so desire, watching them sweep down and attack is pretty incredible. Be cautious though, the talons on these guys can easily do some damage to your hands…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the evening we went off in search of the Hyenas. Simply hop in any of the little Tuk tuks flying around the town around sunset and they’ll know exactly what you’re after. After being a bit suspicious of where on earth our driver was going we rounded a bend to find a bunch of other cars in a semi circle with their lights focused on a man kneeling on the ground with a basket of meat next to him.

In the distance we could here men and boys making unusual calls out into the night. After a long time the calls became closer and closer and we noticed movement in the inky dark of night.

Not quite dog and not quite cat the Hyena’s cautiously stepped up to the man with the meat. Originally this process of heading the Hyena’s was to the stop them attacking people and raiding garbage and homes for food. If they are well fed they are not a particularly aggressive animal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This routine has now predominately evolved into a tourist attraction but the animals are well fed and roam freely in the areas outside the town, heading in for their meals. Strangely the feeding began with the man holding a stick in his mouth with meat on the end as the animals approached and bit it away.

Soon members of the audience were being invited in to have a go. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get involved, there is clearly no contingency plan in place here and there have been incidents of the hyenas turning aggressive and attacking tourists, in one case killing one.

One volunteer stepped forward and soon Hyena’s were coming up to feed. At one point the local Hyena man instructed the volunteer to kneel down on all fours and one of the not so friendly looking animals was lured up onto his back. Sod that for a laugh! I’d all but resolved not to get involved just around the time that my travel buddy Dylan said he was going to give it a go. Well I have to do it now I thought.

After holding Dylan’s video camera whilst a couple of Hyenas climbed all over him my turn came and off I went in auto pilot mode. At the height of my nerves one of them let out an eerie call right next me, not what I needed, and I braced myself expecting the weight of the animal to land on me at any moment.

A few seconds later it was all over, whilst quite heavy the Hyena wasn’t too much of a problem although I was annoyed as I felt the thing had been left up on my back for an eternity by the host! Soon the show was over and we hopped back in the Tuk tuk asking to be taken to somewhere selling beer to calm our nerves…

If you like these blogs I’ve started posting more unique content over on my Facebook page and Twitter page rather just here on my blog. I’d love to have you following along on those pages as well!

Advertisements