Dire Dawa, Harar & Babile Market
Today, much bigger, more industrial and generally more commercial and enterprising than Harar, Dire Dawa is a fairly new city by Ethiopian standards. It came into being as a phenomenon of the Djibouti-Addis Abeba Railway line that reached Dire Dawa in 1902. The two cities are 54 km apart.
Harar’s old walled town (known as Jugal) is a fascinating place that begs exploration. The thick, 5m-high walls running 3.5km around town were erected in the 16th century in defensive response to the migrations northward of the Oromo, and little development occurred outside them until the early 20th century. There are six gates: five 16th-century originals and the car-friendly Harar Gate, also known as Duke’s Gate after Ras Makonnen, the first duke of Harar, who added it in 1889. The colorful atmosphere of its multi-ethnic culture is Harar’s unmistakable characteristic. Traditionally, the walled quarters of old Harar (dating back to the 16th century) have been the exclusive domain of the Harari or Adere people, Ethiopia’s most urbanized ethnic group. It also has an incredibly constant and comfortable climate.
Eastern Hyena Feeding Site
The first sight of Africa’s second-largest predator is usually of vague shadows and luminous green eyes as they skulk in and out of the shadows. As the pack grows more confident, they dart forward with their peculiar gait until all reservations are lost and they approach the hyena men to be fed, literally climbing on top of them to make a show of it.
A small town about 30km east of Harar. Ten kilometers beyond is the fascinating Valley of Marvels. Given its name by the Italians, it is renowned for its gravity defying balancing rock formations, where tall columns of black and red rock, withered and twisted by the elements, stand topped by loose on Monday and Thursday, there is an atmospheric livestock market in the village of Babille – it’s one of Ethiopia’s biggest, attracting buyers of camels, cows, donkeys and goats from as far as Djibouti and Somaliland. The market runs from about 10am to 2pm.
Babille Elephant Sanctuary
Babille is better protected than many of Ethiopia’s national parks, and the population of elephants (which some authorities identify as a unique subspecies, Loxodonta Africana Orleans) has risen to around 400. Also resident, though unlikely to be seen, are lions (notable for their black manes), leopards, Menelik’s bushbucks, Soemmerring’s gazelles and greater and lesser kudus. The bird list is at least 227 species strong.
Koremi(Argoba Tribes Village)
This is around 19km southeast of Harar above the Erer Valley, is a definite must-see. It’s the largest of several villages of the Argoba, a deeply traditional people whose ancestors arrived in these parts in the 12th century. Unlike most of the Adare homes of Harar, the old stone houses here are unpainted and unplastered.
Lakes Afambo & Gumare
Is a salt lakes scattered around Asaita are something of a holy grail for serious adventurers. This area remains one of the Horn’s most inhospitable corners, appearing much the same as when explorer Wilfred Thesiger laid eyes upon it in the 1930s. Here the Awash River disappears into a chain of lakes, including Lakes Gumare and Afambo, which can be fairly easily visited from Asaita. The scenery is as stark, desolate and surreally beautiful as it is foreboding.