Harar was established by Sultan Abu Beker Mohammed in 1520. Harar, the Holy City of Ethiopia's Muslim community, is believed to be the forth-holiest city after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. The old City Wall of Harar is the main attraction and symbol of Islamic architecture. Harar has approximately 90 mosques, which form the largest concentration of mosques in the world. One of Harar's main attractions is the hyena man who feeds hyenas on the outskirts of the town every night.
Harar is known for its turmoil and bloodshed. Ahmed Gragn killed Abu Beker Mohammed who was the ruler of Harar. Ahmed Gragn was a militant Muslim leader and used Harar as his base to launch his jihad and raids against the Ethiopian Christian Empire in 1528. He destroyed many churches and threatened the complete distruction of Ethiopian Christendom. He was killed by Emperor Gelawdewos in a Battle near Lake Tana in 1543. The raids continued against the Christians led by Ahmed Gragn's widow Bati Del Wambara. In 1559, Emperor Gelawdewos marched on Harar with the aim to eradicate the constant religious sectarianism taking place. Gelawdewos was killed in a battle and his head was paraded around the city on a stake.
In 1647, Emir Ali ibn Daud took control the city and established an autonomous administration. Despite the continuous fighting with Oromo tribes, Harar expanded; it became well populated, an important city for trade and a centre of Muslim scholarship. It issued its own currency. After 250 years of autonomous rule, Egypt occupied Harar and killed the Emir in 1875. The Egyptian action created a strong resistance in the Muslim community of Harar. Emir Abdullah took control and led a campaign against the Egyptians, which ended in 1885.
In 1887, Harar lost its autonomy when Menelik, Prince of Shewa, who later became Emperor of Ethiopia in 1889, waged war against the army of Emir Abdullah. Menelik defeated the Emir at the Battle of Chelenko in 1887. Menelik then established a new administration, including several members of the emir's family to prevent renewed religious sectarianism, headed by Ras Mekonnen, the father of Emperor Haile Selassie.
Harar then began to disintegrate and lost its status as a trade centre in the end of nineteenth century when the railway line was built between Addis Ababa and Djibouti through Dire Dawa. From 1902, Dire Dawa became the main commercial centre of Ethiopia.
However, Harar remained as the spiritual City of Ethiopia's Muslim community, the political capital of Hararge Province until 1994 and has become a federal city-state since 1995.
Between 1769 and 1855, Ethiopia was divided into a number of small kingdoms and ruled by regional princes and feudal lords is known in Ethiopian history as the "Era of Princes and Wealthy Feudal Lords (Zemene Mesafint)". The central govenment was abolished and the regional princes took control of their own affairs until 1855.
In 1855, Lij Kassa Hailu, the son of Dejezmach Hailu Wolde Giorgis (Governor of Kawara district of Dembia, western Beghemider province), declared himself "King of Kings" and was crowned under the name of Emperor Tewodros II. Tewodros began to re-unify Ethiopia by subjugating regional Princes to his rule. He imprisoned prince Menelik of Shewa who refused to recognise Tewodros as Emperor. Tewodros lacked diplomatic skills and used force to pursue his goal of re-uniting the country. Because of this, Tewodros became unpopular among many regional princes and feudal lords. He successfully overthrew feudal lords and distributed land to the peasants and ordinary people. His efforts led to the abolition of the slave trade and won him the hearts and minds of many ordinary people.
Tewodros efforts were to modernise his army, and to re-unite and established an independent and sovereign Ethiopia. To fulfil his ambitions, Tewodros contacted a few European countries, specifically Great Britain for support. He encountered a set back when he failed to get the support he had asked for. The final straw for Tewodros came when the British did not respond his request of support. He became very angry and he took several British people prisoners in a final desperate attempt to get support. Queen Victoria wrote to him asking for the release of the prisoners but Tewodros refused to release the prisoners and this led to the expedition of British troops to Meqdala in 1869.
Geographically, Ethiopia was and still is a very difficult country to travel in without inside co-operation so the British contacted Dejezmach Kassa of Tigray who was unhappy with the way he had been treated by Tewodros. Kassa of Tigray made a deal with the British. They promised him that he would get weaponry in exchange for his support against Tewodros. In 1869, The British troops and Kassa of Tigray marched on Meqdala and defeated Tewodros army. Tewodros shot and killed himself rather than surrender to the British army. After Tewodros death, the British army looted the country's precious manuscripts and religious artefacts from Megdala.
Today these priceless treasures of Ethiopia can be seen in many museums in the UK including the British Museum. The British army also took Tewodros's son, Alemayohu, to Britain where he grew up under the protection of Queen Victoria until he died at the age of 18. His memorial is now in the chapel at Windsor Castle.
Tewodros is remembered by Ethiopians as the founder and moderniser of Ethiopia's Re-unification. He is now one of the most revered historical figure.
Ethiopia has a diverse mix of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. It is a country with more than 80 different ethnic groups each with its own language, culture, custom and tradition. One of the most significant areas of Ethiopian culture is its literature, which is represented predominantly by translations from ancient Greek and Hebrew religious texts into the ancient language Ge'ez, modern Amharic and Tigrigna languages.
Ge'ez is one of the most ancient languages in the world and is still used today by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has its own unique customs and traditions, which have been influenced by Judaism.
The Tigrayans' history and culture is derived from the Aksumite Kingdom tradition and culture whereas the history and culture of the Amhara people is derived from the post Aksumite imperial reign of Menelik II and Haile Selassie.
In Ethiopia, men and women have clearly defined roles. Traditionally men are responsible for providing for the family and for dealing with family contact outside the home whereas women are responsible for domestic work and looking after the children.
Parents are stricter with their daughters than their sons; often parents give more freedom to males than females. The traditional view was men neither cook nor do shopping because housework tends to be women's job. This view continues to be held in many areas of the country.
Although many people continue to follow these traditional roles, life is constantly evolving including the role of men and women. This can be seen particularly true in urban areas where women are beginning to take a major role in all areas of employment and men are beginning to take a greater role in domestic life.
The Ethiopian traditional costume is made of woven cotton. Ethiopian men and women wear this traditional costume called gabbi or Netella. Women often wear dresses (Kemis) and netella with borders of coloured embroidered woven crosses, but other designs are also used.
Other ethnic groups and tribes in the south and west of the country wear different costumes that reflect their own traditions. Some tribes partially cover their body with leather but others do not wear any clothes at all, merely decorating their faces and bodies with distinctive images.
The Ethiopian national dish is called wat. It is a hot spicy stew accompanied by injera (traditional large spongy pancake made of teff flour and water). Teff is unique to the country and is grown on the Ethiopian highlands. There are many varieties of wat, e.g. chicken, beef, lamb, vegetables, lentils, and ground split peas stewed with hot spice called berbere.
Berbere is made of dried red hot pepper, herbs, spices, dried onions, dried garlic and salt ingredients. Wat is served by placing it on top of the injera which is served in a mesob (large basket tray). The food is eaten with fingers by tearing off a piece of injera and dipping it in the wat.
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians do not eat meat and diary products (i.e. egg, butter, milk, and cheese) on Wednesdays and Fridays except the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost, the Fast of the Prophets, the fast of Nineveh, Lent, the Fast of the Apostles and the fast of the Holy Virgin Mary. According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church belief, the faithful must abstain from eating meat and diary products to attain forgiveness of sins committed during the year, and undergo a rigorous schedule of prayers and atonement.
Vegetarian meals such as lentils, ground split peas, grains, fruit, varieties of vegetable stew accompanied by injera and/or bread are only eaten during fasting days. Meat and diary products are only eaten on feasting days i.e. Christmas, Epiphany, Easter and at all other times. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians, Jews and Muslims do not eat pork as it forbidden by their religious beliefs.
The favourite drink of many Ethiopians is bunna (coffee). Bunna is drunk in Ethiopia in a unique and traditional way known as a "coffee ceremony". First the coffee is roasted, then ground and placed in a Jebena (coffee pot) with boiling water. When ready it is then served to people in little cups, up to three times per ceremony.
Other locally produced beverages are tella and tej, which are served and drunk on major religious festivals, Saints Days and weddings. Tella and tej are also sold by numerous designated commercial houses all over the country.
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