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Feeding Hyenas in Harar

Harar walled old town uses to be the capital of the Harla Kingdom in the 13th century. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site said to be lot alike the Moroccan city of Fez, but except for a few narrow streets near the east gate I found that but to be particularly true.

Harar has something unique to it though. Historically it was an Arabian trade center and today it boasts of having as much as 88 mosques. The dresses of the women here are all in just one strong color, so when you see a gathering of women, eg at one of the cities many markets it’s a beautiful of colors.

The main reason for traveling to Hear for me was to feed the Hyenas that come into the city at night to eat from the trash on and around the streets.

I showed up a short walk from Falana gate where a man was sitting chewing khat in the rain and when I asked him for the hyenas he just said 100birr (3eur) and once I gave it to him he started walking around shouting animal like sounds, which he did for about an hour while I waited. I had heard that the hyenas usually dont come when it is raining and was worried, but then suddenly I saw the guy with a basket of meat followed by 7-8 pairs of animal eyes reflecting the light from my head lamp.

The man sat down and asked me to join him. He held meat in front of my face and over my head so that I could see the animals snapping the meat just centimeters from my face before retreating back in the dark. They were really big animals and it was surreal looking straight into their mouths as I fed them with a stick from my mouth, but I was ensured that it would be safe and noticed that the animals were actually quite afraid of us, sneaking around us and being quick to snap the meat. Another similar experience, which I didn’t do in Harar, is to go to the butchers corner and buy some camel meat and once the butcher shouts, huge eagles would come flying down and snapping the meat.

I had hear that the city was lively on weekend nights, so I went out to towards the bars I had been recommended. On the way I encounter a pack of hyenas staring at me from the other side of the street, so I quickly turned around and went to my 3€ Hotel Tewodros to spend the night indoor instead. Being right next to a garbage dump the hyenas I could both see and hear the hyenas outside all night long. They are the second biggest predator in Africa and wild animals, but I learned later that they pose no threat to people in Harar, where they have been living peacefully side by side for centuries.