Harar, Ethiopia

I am making this entry short today. I spent the day in Harar, Islam’s fourth holiest city. I’m keeping it short because I really need to sort through my thoughts about today. I’m just going to tell my surface observations until I can really ponder it more. I’ve been in some dark places in my life, but this was different. This place was dark without feeling dangerous at the same time, though I know that was there as well. The first thing I noticed, and the most obvious, is the huge amount of drug use there. The people are addicted to qat, which is a stimulant and hallucinogen, and it’s such a cultural norm that the amount of people I saw either actively chewing it or under its influence is just mind blowing. The second thing I noticed is the demeanor of people. This one is quite hard for me to describe, and I may come up with a better description later. It’s the look of a person who has been desperately been waiting for relief for something, and that relief continually eludes them. Its the look of someone who knows they need something, but they don’t know what it is. I’m going to leave the description of the people to that for now, until I can think further about it.
The city itself is an ancient walled city. Off the main streets are a maze of passages between homes that are painted in pastel colors. There are 85 mosques within the walls of the small city, so they are literally every couple hundred yards apart. The area around is steep terraced arid land, much of which is used for qat production. One of the striking things about this city is that there is a hole in the city wall where hyenas enter at night and are fed by hand. That’s all I’m going to write for now. I’m sure I will have further thoughts later.

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