Trip Start Aug 05, 2006
Trip End Aug 19, 2007

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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Using public transit in Africa is always an interesting and often frustrating
experience.  On this occasion though it was actually a little
fun.  The slow train travels from Djibouti to Dire Dawa in
Ethiopia consists of a few passenger cars and some really old looking
box cars.  I decided that it might be more exciting to ride in the
box car and it was.  About two hours after I got on the train the
common mad African dash to find room on the train began.  I was
soon joined by about 50 other people who carried with them suitcases,
bags of grain and various baskets

At 12:00am sharp, only 3 hours after the scheduled departure, the
train began to slowly accelerate out of the station.  Around
3:30am we arrived at the same border I was turned away from a few days
earlier.  I man woke me up and told me I must come to
immigration.  He took my passport and put an entry stamp on my
Ethiopian visa.  He didn't even look at my Djibouti
visa!   After 4 or 5 more hours everyone had finished passing
through customs and rebordered the train. 

It was mostly a pleasant ride on train through northeastern Ethiopia
and I enjoyed looking out the door at the landscape.  I arrived in
Dire Dawa late in the afternoon and quickly caught a minibus to Harar
about an hour away.  Harar is an awesome place to hangout and
relax!  I had heard horror stories of people getting hassled in
Ethiopia and after Djibouti I could hardly wait.  Thankfully those
rumors turned out to be untrue.  The people here are very friendly
and helpful.  Many of the kids often screamed farangi, foreigner,
at me but it didn't really bother much.

Although Ethiopia is mostly a Christian country there is a larger
Muslim population as well, especially in and around Harar.  In
many places you might expect there would be a little hostility between
two different religious groups living in such proximity together but
here in Harar it doesn't seem to matter much what your religion
is.  Everyone is extremely tolerant and you can often find a bar
right next door to a Mosque in the old town.  That's another
thing, cheap beer!  In fact everything is very cheap here and even
if you are overcharged as a foreigner it is usually such a small amount
that you probably won't notice. 

The old town is interesting to walk around with many fascinating
buildings.  At night I went to see the hyena men.  This is a
local tradition in which every night a man feeds these wild animals,
often strait from his mouth.  It was definitely an interesting
sight to behold and you can even try feeding them yourself.  I didn't
have the chance though because the hyenas finished eating too
soon.  I also surprisingly met up again with the French couple
that I traveled with from Yemen to Somaliland.  We went out for
some tasty Ethiopian food and a few Harar beers.
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