Harari in Ethiopia

Photo Source:  Copyrighted © 2022
Kerry Olson  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source:  Bethany World Prayer Center
People Name: Harari
Country: Ethiopia
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 54,000
World Population: 54,000
Primary Language: Harari
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.30 %
Evangelicals: 0.05 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Ethio-Semitic
Affinity Bloc: Horn of Africa Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Harari are the small remnants of a unique, pre-industrial urban culture that has existed since the 1500s. Until 1974, the Harari, lived exclusively inside the stone walls of Harar, an ancient Muslim city, where they specialized in trade. Over the centuries, Harar, which is located on a highland ridge between the Red Sea and the Ethiopian highlands, has been the dominant center of Islam for northeast Africa. Although recent political and economic changes have dispersed the Harari, they have continued trading in the region.

The Harari are the only Ethiopians whose trade is based in a single, large urban center. Daily the Harari have contacts with four other competitive ethnic groups who frequent the markets of Harar. However, they have maintained their distinctive qualities. To help preserve their unique culture they limit the use of their native language, Adare, to their own people. They also strongly discourage marriage to non-Harari.

What Are Their Lives Like?

While the Harari are called Adere by their ethnic neighbors (the Somali, the Oromo, the Argobba, and the Amhara), they refer to themselves as ge usu, or "the people of the city." They call their way of life ge 'ada ("the etiquette of the city") and their language ge sinan ("the city language"). Harari society is characterized by a complex set of obligations and ties, which provides a strong sense of social solidarity and excludes outsiders. The core of Harari society is built around kinship, friendship, and afocha, or community organizations. In regard to kinship, the Harari do not marry non-Harari. Friendship provides the Harari with a small group of trusted equals who remain friends throughout their lives. Characteristically, a boy forms a core of close friends from other neighborhood boys his own age. A girl becomes friends with the daughters of women who visit her mother. The afocha provides the Harari with social, ceremonial, and economic support for such occasions as weddings and funerals. Community organizations range in size from 50 to 75 members, and usually include aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Women make up a solid force in Harari culture. Unlike the women of many other Muslims cultures, the Harari women lead vigorous and visible-although separate-social lives. They are not required to wear the traditional Muslim veil. They contribute to their families' incomes by selling produce from their husbands' farms or raising and selling tobacco. One very important industry among the Harari women is basket weaving. In fact, Harar has become famous for its elaborate baskets.

Most Harari live in rectangular-shaped houses. The walls are made of twigs overlaid with clay and the roofs are made of thatch. The region surrounding Harar receives up to 40 inches of rain per year. This enables the farmers to produce enough grain to satisfy the city's needs. Various citrus fruits, mangoes, papayas, bananas, and other fruits are also raised. The cash crops are coffee and qat, a mildly hallucinogenic stimulant. The staple dish of the Harari is a spicy stew made with meat, potatoes, and vegetables, and eaten with sourdough bread.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Harari are virtually all Sunni Muslims. Despite pressures to change, the Islamic religion is strong among the Harari. The city of Harar is well known as a center of Islamic learning. The twin-towered Jami mosque is the focus of the community, although nearly every neighborhood has its own small mosque. The people attend the mosques regularly. Because Harar has over 150 shrines of Muslim saints, it is referred to as the "city of saints." Almost all of the adults in Harar fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. Very few people drink alcoholic beverages.

What Are Their Needs?

There has been no apparent response to the Gospel among the Harari. They also need intercessors who will faithfully lift their names up to God.

Prayer Points

Pray that God will grant His wisdom and favor to missions agencies currently working among the Harari.
Pray that the Lord will raise up additional missionaries who can effectively reach out to Muslims.
Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Harari.

Text Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center