My good friend Jessica visited from America a couple weeks ago, and after spending a couple of days in Amhara for Farengi Fasika and visiting my site, we headed to eastern Ethiopia to check out Harar and Dire Dawa. Since these towns were recently opened up for Peace Corps Volunteers to visit, it was a great chance to see a part of the country I might not have otherwise seen.
While I really loved the towns of Dire Dawa and Harar, the people there did not make the experience enjoyable overall.
I am a young female living in Ethiopia. Harassment is, unfortunately, a part of daily life. But the men and children of Dire Dawa and Harar took it to an entirely new level. My friend and I could not walk more than two minutes without someone commenting that we are “a beauty,” inviting us for coffee or asking for something, or just making annoying comments that all Peace Corps Volunteers deal with daily such as “YOU YOU YOU,” “MONEY MONEY MONEY,” and “FAREEEEEEEENGI!!!” We also got farengi waga-ed (foreigner pricing) at every single turn–the minibus drivers between the two cities wanted to charge us twenty birr for our bags to sit ON OUR LAPS. I almost blew it at that… in Amhara they don’t even charge me to put the bags up top, and Bahir Dar is a fairly touristy area! Every day it was completely exhausting to be out in public, and more than once we had to seek refuge in our hotel room just to be left alone for a few hours. I wanted to love the two cities because I’d heard so many positive things about them, however, I feel like now that I’ve seen it there’s no reason for me to ever go back… and the people are a huge deterrent to me ever wanting to go back.
Anyway, rant over. A fairly decent guide found us on the bus to Harar and followed us around until I got his card. We decided to call him, since I’d heard you really needed a guide in Harar. Although we didn’t do much with him, he did end up being really helpful, showing us cool sites around the city one morning.
So there were three tremendously awesome parts of the trip:
- Feeding the hyenas in Harar
- Harar Brewery
- Dire Dawa Railway Station
Feeding the Hyenas
Easily one of the coolest things I’ve done. We went to the hyena man outside the Erer and Sanga gates near the Aw Anser Ahmed Shrine. He is the grandson of the “original” hyena man. The night we arrived, one of the hyenas stole the basket of meat that they would be fed. It took a while for them to track down the basket, which they found on the main road near the city wall. Once the basket was recovered, the show got underway–my friend and I both fed the hyenas by hand. There were about 12 hyenas hanging around over all, and they more often then not seemed more afraid of us! Our guide told us later that the hyenas clean the city at up at night (I had actually remarked at one point that Harar was the cleanest Ethiopian city I’d been in), yet they are also afraid of the dogs!! We paid 100 birr to feed and take photos of the hyenas, it was definitely an experience well worth it.
We had the bright idea to walk to the Harar Brewery from our hotel. Unfortunately, there are no signs and no clear directions in any guidebook on how to get there. But walk we did, occasionally stopping to ask the random person, “Harar birra yet no?” It took about an hour of wrong turns and uphill climbs, but we made it, and it was well worth it! We found tibs during fasting and had Hakim Stout (one of the best beers in Ethiopia) on draft for 10 birr each (about 50 cents USD).
Dire Dawa Railway Station
This station houses what’s left of the Djibouti-Ethiopia railway that ceased operations several years ago and is currently being revitalized. We started wandering around the back and a nice, older man came and took us to a small caboose that is the start of the museum tour (I’m assuming). A nice, much older man that spoke French and some English took us around, showing us the different behind the scenes of the rail station, the railway cars and even the railway station and offices. It was incredible and a wonderful afternoon wandering around the aging buildings and cars of the unused railway.
Anyway, there is a quick rundown of the highlights (although obviously, seeing Jessica was pretty much the best thing!) of vacation part 1. Stay tuned for more from the parents visit to Ethiopia!