Harar is a fascinating, exotic town of considerable interest to visitors willing to make the 320 mile (520km) journey east from Addis Ababa. Harar is the fourth holiest city in Islam, forbidden to outsiders until 1887 when it became part of the Ethiopian Empire. Harar boasts about 82 mosques - three from the 10th century - and 102 shrines.
An enduring reputation for having the most beautiful women in Africa, and possibly Ethiopia's best coffee, adds to the allure of this intriguing destination. The city is perched on the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley, affording it a cool climate and wonderful views of the soaring mountains to the east. The main attractions are inside the Walled City, a fascinating warren of medieval mosques, houses, and markets. Another popular attraction is the nocturnal Hyena Man, who feeds wild hyenas strips of raw meat suspended from his mouth and sticks. Brave visitors can join him.
Harar's two most famous Western inhabitants were Richard Burton, and Arthur Rimbaud, who lived here for a decade in the 1880s, writing poetry and running guns for the sultan. Rimbaud's house is now an interesting museum in Harar, worth a visit even for those who aren't familiar with his work. Shoppers should look for the highly regarded hand-crafted silverware, and the locally brewed Harar beer. The city has been a trade hub for centuries, an ancient shopper's paradise.