Harah, the land of chat...

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Mar 02, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel Belayneh

Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Sunday, January 24, 2010

OK, let's get 'the land of chat' clarified. If you've seen the movie 'Blackhawk Down', you will be familiar with chat.  Chat is a mildly narcotic leaf that is chewed and gives some kind of high?  It is legal, and apparently this is the best cultivation area.  It is used throughout Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and who knows where else.  I will not be able to give you a first hand report on it's affect, but I've had numerous chances to purchase, for pennies, and try.  I have not seen anyone here have the same kind of results as depicted  in the movie.  I think it has more of a low key affect, kind of relaxing.  It's mostly an afternoon and evening social thing, both men and women participate.Most of the chat being shipped to other Ethiopian cities travels at night to avoid the harmful effects of sunlight.

The Sky Bus trip from Addis to Harah went smoothly, and was quite nice.  8.5 hours went by quickly....great mountain scenery, comfortable reclining seats, even served a breakfast cake and tea. Seated next to me is a fellow from Addis who is traveling to Harah for a wedding.  We chat (talk) along the way and he insists on buying my lunch.  The bus was nearly full, but I would not call it a tourist bus, only one other farangi.  I also wonder if this bus has an exemption from traveling at anywhere near the posted speed limits...we're flying!

Harah is primarily a Muslim city, perhaps 70%. Located in the 'Old City' alone are 88 mosques, many of them owned by individual families.  Muslims and Christians co-exist here harmoniously.  Harah has a UNESCO designation for the 'Old City', and is really fascinating as you walk through the small alleys and streets.  
The old city is very clean, and considering the high density of the housing, older sewer system and limited water suppy, there are no lingering odors.
The hotels in Harah, as most of the city, are on a limited water supply.  So plan on having water available for only a couple of hours in the morning and in the evening.  But as usual, there is a full bucket located next to the toilet.

My hotel arranged a local guide, Binyam, excellent English, he is listed in the Lonely Planet Guide.
He did a great job of showing me all of the main attractions as well as taking me to places in the Old Town which I would not have found on my own.  One of the markets we strolled through was the recycling market.  Leaning up against a wall was a casket, as in for burial.  I'll add the picture when I get back to the states.
In one of the spice stalls, an elderly woman with a great, almost toothless smile, took a fancy to me.  She was happy to have her photo taken, but had to first put her shawl on.  She wanted to pose, and I could not get her to flash that great smile again.  All she wanted was to see thedigital  photo, she was very pleased, and kissed my hand and thanked me over and over.
Maybe the most touristy thing I've done on this trip was to go see the famous 'Hyena Man' .  Nightly he calls in the hyena's from the nearby countryside for some snacks of meat.  My assumption was this was strictly done for the benefit of tourists.  My guide Binyam says this started years ago, as a way to keep the hyena's from dining on the locals herds of farm animals.

My next stop will be 105 KM to the west, the town of Jijiga.  I had planned on leaving this morning, but apparently the Ethiopian Prime Minister is somewhere in the area, and the road is temporarily closed for security reasons.  Maybe I'll get there today, maybe not. 
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Poan on

Dear Richard, Greetings from Siem Reap, Angkor, Cambodia! I love reading your travel blog so much. I am glad to hear you enjoyed traveling round Ethiopia and also enjoyed your time with local Ethiopians, talking and taking pictures. That would be a great adventure and experiences. Have a great day today and enjoy your time in Ethiopia. See you soon! Love, Poan

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