Harari people

The Harari people (Harari: ጌይኡሱእ Gēyusu, "People of the City") are an ethnic group inhabiting the Horn of Africa. Members traditionally reside in the walled city of Harar, called simply Gēy "the City" in Harari, situated in the Harari Region of eastern Ethiopia. They speak the Harari language, a member of the South Ethiopic grouping within the Semitic subfamily of the Afroasiatic languages.

Total population
estimated 200,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
AfarAmharaArgobbaGurageSahoSomaliSiltʼeTigrayansZayCushitic peoples[2]


Harari woman in traditional attire.

The Harla people, an extinct Afroasiatic-speaking people native to Hararghe, are considered the precursors to the Harari people.[3][4] The ancestors of the Hararis moved across the Bab-el-Mandeb, entering the shores of north Somalia, producing a Semitic-speaking population among Cushitic and non-Afroasiatic-speaking peoples in what would become Harar.[5][6]

Upon the arrival of the Arab Fagih Abadir, the alleged patriarch of the Harari in the 10th century, he was met by the Harla, Gaturi and Argobba tribes.[7] By the thirteenth century, Hararis were among the administrators of the Ifat Sultanate.[8] In the fourteenth century raids on the Harari town of Get (Gey) by Abyssinian Emperor Amda Seyon I, Hararis are referred to as Harlas.[9] During the Abyssinian–Adal war, some Harari militia settled in Gurage territory, forming the Siltʼe people.[10] Hararis once represented the largest concentration of agriculturalists in East Africa.[11]

In the sixteenth century, walls built around the city of Harar during the reign of Emir Nur ibn Mujahid helped preserve Harari identity from being assimilated by the Oromo.[12] Harari colonies in the middle of the seaboard and Harar were also assimilated by Somalis putting the Sultanate of Harar under duress.[13] Hararis confined in the walled city became the last remnants of a once large ethnic group that inhabited the region.[14][15] According to Ulrich Braukämper, the Harla-Harari were most likely active in the region prior to the Adal Sultanate's Islamic invasion of Ethiopia.

The sixteenth century saw Oromos invading regions of Somalia from the northern areas of Hargeisa to its southern portions such as Lower Juba, incorporating the Harari people.[16] Hararis were furious when Muhammad Jasa decided to move the Adal Sultanate's capital from Harar to Aussa in 1577 in response to Oromo threats. In less than a year after its relocation Adal would collapse.[17] Harari imams continued to have a presence in the southern Afar Region in the Imamate of Aussa until they were overthrown in the eighteenth century by the Mudaito dynasty, who later established the Sultanate of Aussa.[18]

Among the assimilated peoples were Arab Muslims that arrived during the start of the Islamic period, as well as Argobba and other migrants that were drawn to Harar's well-developed culture.[19] Statistics prove that a Semitic-speaking people akin to the Harari may have inhabited a stretch of land between the Karkaar Mountains, the middle Awash and the Jijiga. Oromo migrations have effectively split this putative ethnolinguistic block to the Lake Zway islands, Gurage territory, and Harar.[20] Following the decline of the Adal Sultanate's ascendancy in the area, a large number of the Harari were in turn reportedly absorbed into the Oromo community.[19] In the Emirate of Harar period, Hararis sent missionaries to convert Oromo to Islam.[21] The loss of the crucial Battle of Chelenqo marked the end of Harar's independence in 1887.[22] Hararis supported the designated but uncrowned Emperor of Ethiopia Iyasu V, and his presumed efforts to make Harar the capital of an African Islamic empire.[23] Iyasu was however overthrown in 1916, and many of his Harari followers were jailed.[24]

Harari children

Due to severe violation of Harari rights during Abyssinian rule, Hararis made several attempts to cut ties with Ethiopia and unify Hararghe with Somalia, among them launching the nationalist Kulub movement which was linked to the Somali Youth League. These events led to the Haile Selassie government's forced displacement efforts on Hararis, to break their control of Harar.[25] A Harar Oromo proverb alludes to this occasion: "On that day Hararis were eliminated from earth."[26] Former Mayor of Harar Bereket Selassie reported that both the Amhara and Oromo viewed Hararis with contempt.[27] Haile Selassie's overthrow by the Derg communist regime made minor differences for the Harari; they describe it as "little more than a transition from the frying pan into the fire".[28] The 1975 rural act disenfranchised Hararis from their farm land, forcing many to emigrate.[29] The surviving Harari relatives of Kulub movement members would join the Somali Armed Forces; and some, having been promoted as high-ranking military officers, fought in the Ogaden War to free Harari/Somali territory from Ethiopian rule.[30] Hararis were also involved in the WSLF.[31] After Ethiopians won the war in Ogaden, Derg soldiers began massacring civilians in Harari areas of Addis Ababa for collaborating with Somalis.[32] Today Hararis are outnumbered in their own state by the Amhara and Oromo people. Under the Meles Zenawi administration, Hararis had been favored tremendously. They acquired control their Harari Region again, and have been given special rights not offered to other groups in the region.[33] According to academic Sarah Vaughan, the Harari People's National Regional State was created to overturn the historically bad relationship between Harar and the Ethiopian government.[34]

Hararis as well as the Somali Sheekhal and Hadiya Halaba clan assert descent from Abadir Umar ar-Rida, also known as Fiqi Umar, who traced his lineage to the first caliph, Abu Bakr. According to the explorer Richard Francis Burton, "Fiqi Umar" crossed over from the Arabian Peninsula to the Horn of Africa ten generations prior to 1854, with his six sons: Umar the Greater, Umar the Lesser, the two Abdillahs, Ahmad and Siddik.[35] According to Hararis, they also consist of seven Harla subclans: Abogn, Adish, Awari, Gidaya, Gaturi, Hargaya, and Wargar.[36] The Harari were previously known as "Adere", although this term is now considered derogatory.[37]

Arsi Oromo state an intermarriage took place between their ancestors and the previous inhabitants Adere (Harari) whom they call the Hadiya.[38][39] Hadiya clans claim their forefathers were Harari however they later became influenced by Sidama.[40][41] Moreover Habar Habusheed a sub clan of the Somali Isaaq tribe in northern Somalia, hold the tradition they originate from an intermarriage between Hararis and their forefathers.[42]


Harari pendant, held at the Museum of Natural History and Ethnography in Colmar.

The Harari people speak the Harari language, an Ethiosemitic language referred to as Gey Ritma or Gey Sinan ("Language of the City"). It is closely related to the eastern Gurage languages and similar to Zay and Silt'e, all of whom are linked to the Semitisized Harla language.[43][44] Old Harari already had many Arabic loanwords, proven by the ancient texts.[45] The Zaila songs of thirteenth century origin, popular in Somalia are considered to be using Old Harari.[46] Northern Somali dialects use Harari loanwords.[47] Contemporary Harari language is influenced more by Oromo than Somali language and the presence of Arabic is still there.[48] After the nineteenth century Egyptian conquest of Harar, numerous loanwords were additionally borrowed from Egyptian Arabic.

Gafat language now extinct once spoken on the Blue Nile was related to Harari dialect.[49] Harari language has some form of correlation with Swahili and Maghrebi Arabic.[50]

The Harari language was historically written using the Arabic script and in characters known as "Harari secret script" of unknown origin.[51] More recently in the 1990s, it has been transcribed with the Ge'ez script. Harari is also commonly written in Latin outside of Ethiopia.[52]

The 1994 Ethiopian census indicates that there were 21,757 Harari speakers. About 20,000 of these individuals were concentrated outside Harar, in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.[53]

Most Harari people are bilingual in Amharic and Oromo, both of which are also Afro-Asiatic languages. According to the 1994 Ethiopian census, about 2,351 are monolingual, speaking only Harari.[53]


Virtually all Harari are Muslim. The earliest kabir or Islamic teacher in the community was Aw Sofi Yahya, a Harari scholar who was contemporary of the Arab Patron saint of Harar called shaykh Abadir and it was from him that the first Qur'an gey Qur'anic school around 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) to the south of the city center.[54] The predominant strand or self-identification adopted by Harari people is Sunni or non-denominational Islam.[55]


Hararis comprise under 10% within their own city, due to ethnic cleansing by the Haile Selassie regime. Thousands of Hararis were forced to leave Harar in the 1940s.[34][56][57][25][58][59] Harari people moved throughout Ethiopia, mainly to Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, establishing families and businesses. There's a considerable Harari population in Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen.[60] The Harari people have also spread throughout North America, mainly to Washington D.C., Atlanta, Toronto, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Memphis. Furthermore, a minority of the Harari people live in Europe in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden and Great Britain.

Notable HararisEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lovise, Alean (22 June 2011). The Politics of Ethnicity in Ethiopia. BRILL. p. 154. ISBN 978-9004207295. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  2. ^ Joireman, Sandra F. (1997). Institutional Change in the Horn of Africa: The Allocation of Property Rights and Implications for Development. Universal-Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 978-1581120004.
  3. ^ Joussaume, Roger (1976). "Fouille d'un tumulus à Ganda Hassan Abdi dans les monts du Harar". Annales d'Ethiopie. 10: 25–39. doi:10.3406/ethio.1976.1157.
  4. ^ Gebissa, Ezekiel (2004). Leaf of Allah. Ohio State University Press. p. 36. ISBN 9780852554807. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  5. ^ Abraham, Kinfe (2004). Ethiopia and the Arab world. EIIPD Press. p. 53. ISBN 9782003120749.
  6. ^ Mordechai, Abir (2013-10-28). Ethiopia and the Red Sea: The Rise and Decline of the Solomonic Dynasty and Muslim European Rivalry in the Region. Routledge. p. xvii-xviii. ISBN 9781136280900.
  7. ^ Braukhamper, Ulrich (2002). Islamic History and Culture. LIT Verlag Munster. p. 107. ISBN 9783825856717. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  8. ^ Levtzion, Nehemia (31 March 2000). The History of Islam in Africa. Ohio University Press. p. 228. ISBN 9780821444610. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  9. ^ Budge, E.A (1 August 2014). A History of Ethiopia: Volume I (Routledge Revivals): Nubia and Abyssinia. Routledge. ISBN 9781317649151. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  10. ^ Environment, livelihood and local praxis in Asia and Africa. Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University. 2005. p. 160. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  11. ^ Hassen, Mohammed (1983). The Oromo of Ethiopia (PDF). University of London. p. 176.
  12. ^ Stauth, Georg (2008). Dimensions of Locality. transcipt Verlag. p. 156. ISBN 9783899429688. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  13. ^ Yasin, Yasin (2010). Regional Dynamics of Inter-ethnic Conflicts in the Horn of Africa: An Analysis of the Afar-Somali Conflict in Ethiopia and Djibouti. UNIVERSITY OF HAMBURG. p. 72.
  14. ^ The True Life of Capt. Sir Richard F. Burton. H. S. Nichols. 1896. p. 131. mighty race burton.
  15. ^ Waldron, Sidney (1984). "The Political Economy of Harari-Oromo Relationships, 1559-1874". Northeast African Studies. 6 (1/2): 24. JSTOR 43663302.
  16. ^ Adam, Hussein Mohamed; Geshekter, Charles Lee (1992). The Proceedings of the First International Congress of Somali Studies. Scholars Press. ISBN 978-0-89130-658-0.
  17. ^ Abir, Mordechai (2013). Ethiopia and the Red Sea: The Rise and Decline of the Solomonic Dynasty and Muslim European Rivalry in the Region. Routledge. p. 139. ISBN 978-1-136-28090-0.
  18. ^ Page, Willie. Encyclopedia of africaN HISTORY andCULTURE (PDF). Facts on File inc. p. 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-02-17. Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  19. ^ a b Braukämper, Ulrich (2002). Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia: Collected Essays. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 37. ISBN 978-3825856717.
  20. ^ Braukämper, Ulrich (2002). Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia: Collected Essays. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 18. ISBN 978-3825856717.
  21. ^ Zewde, Bahru (17 March 2002). A History of Modern Ethiopia, 1855–1991. Ohio University Press. ISBN 9780821445723. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  22. ^ Bosworth, C. E (11 March 2014). New Islamic Dynasties. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748696482. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  23. ^ "How Ethiopian prince scuppered Germany's WW1 plans". BBC News. 25 September 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  24. ^ Feener, Michael (2004). Islam in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. ABC-CLIO. p. 224. ISBN 9781576075166. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  25. ^ a b Feener, Michael (2004). Islam in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. ABC-CLIO. p. 227. ISBN 9781576075166. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  26. ^ Carmichael, Tim (1998). Political Culture in Ethiopia's Provincial Administration: Haile Sellassie, Blata Ayele Gebre and the (Hareri) Kulub Movement of 1948. Boston University African Studies Center Press. p. 207.
  27. ^ Selassie, Bereket (20 September 2007). The crown and the pen: the memoirs of a lawyer turned rebel. Red Sea Press. pp. 226–227. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  28. ^ Yigezu, Moges (2010). Language Ideologies and Challenges of Multilingual Education in Ethiopia: The Case of Harari Region. African Books Collective. p. 44. ISBN 9789994455478. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  29. ^ Hetzron, Robert (8 October 2013). The Semitic Languages. Routledge. p. 486. ISBN 9781136115806.
  30. ^ "Kulub Movement Qaxabte". Malasay.com. Malassay. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  31. ^ Wehib, Ahmed (October 2015). History of Harar and the Hararis (PDF). Harari People Regional State Culture, Heritage And Tourism Bureau. p. 172. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  32. ^ "Horn of Africa". Horn of Africa Journal. 1 (2): 9. 1978. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  33. ^ Yigezu, Moges (2010). Language Ideologies and Challenges of Multilingual Education in Ethiopia: The Case of Harari Region. African Books Collective. pp. 44–45. ISBN 9789994455478. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  34. ^ a b Vaughan, Sarah. Ethnicity and Power in Ethiopia. The University of Edinburgh. p. 235.
  35. ^ Richard Burton, First Footsteps in East Africa, 1856; edited with an introduction and additional chapters by Gordon Waterfield (New York: Praeger, 1966), p. 165
  36. ^ Wehib, Ahmed (October 2015). History of Harar and the Hararis (PDF). Harari People Regional State Culture, Heritage And Tourism Bureau. p. 29. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  37. ^ Yimam, Baye (2002). Ethiopian studies at the end of the second millennium. Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University. p. 930. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  38. ^ Braukaemper, Ulrich. A history of the Hadiya in Southern Ethiopia. Universite Hamburg. p. 9.
  39. ^ Braukamper, Ulrich (2002). Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia: Collected Essay. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 47. ISBN 9783825856717.
  40. ^ The Ethno-History of Halaba People (PDF). Southern Nations state. p. 164. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-05.
  41. ^ Fargher, Brian (1996). The Origins of the New Churches Movement in Southern Ethiopia: 1927 - 1944. BRILL. p. 34. ISBN 9004106618.
  42. ^ Lewis, I. M. (1999). A Pastoral Democracy: A Study of Pastoralism and Politics Among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa. ISBN 9783825830847.
  43. ^ Gebissa, Eziekel (2004). Leaf of Allah. Ohio State University. p. 36. ISBN 9780852554807.
  44. ^ Braukhamper, Ulrich (2002). Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia. LITverlag. p. 18. ISBN 9783825856717.
  45. ^ Ramat, Palo (2007). Europe and the Mediterranean as Linguistic Areas: Convergencies from a Historical and Typological Perspective. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 6. ISBN 978-9027230980.
  46. ^ Abdi, Mohamed (2009). "Chansons de Zeyla". Annales d'Ethiopie. XXIV (24): 306.
  47. ^ Lafkioui, Mena (2013-04-30). African Arabic: Approaches to Dialectology. Walter de Gruyter. p. 5. ISBN 978-3110292343.
  48. ^ Hetzron, Robert (2013-10-08). The Semitic Languages. Taylor & Francis. p. 487. ISBN 9781136115806.
  49. ^ Pankhurst, Richard (1997). The Ethiopian Borderlands. The Red Sea Press. p. 89. ISBN 9780932415196.
  50. ^ Owens, Jonathen. Dia-Planar Diffusion: Reconstructing Early Aramaic-Arabic Language Contact. BRILL. p. 78.
  51. ^ Meyer, Ronny (2016). "The ethiopic script: linguistic features and socio-cultural connotations". Oslo Studies in Language. 8 (1): 160.
  52. ^ Cunningham, Andrew (2009). New Communities Emerging Content (PDF). State Library of Victoria. p. 15.
  53. ^ a b Ethnologue - Harari language
  54. ^ Siegbert Uhlig, Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: He-N, Volume 3, (Otto Harrassowitz Verlag: 2007), pp.111 & 319
  55. ^ Brugnatelli, Vermondo. "Arab-Berber contacts in the Middle Ages and Ancient Arabic dialects: new evidence from an old Ibadite religious text." African Arabic: approaches to dialectology. Berlin: de Gruyter (2013): 271-291.
  56. ^ Muehlenbeck, Philip (2012). Religion and the Cold War: A Global Perspective. Vanderbilt University Press. p. 147. ISBN 9780826518521.
  57. ^ Ibrahim, Abadir (2016-12-08). The Role of Civil Society in Africa's Quest for Democratization. Springer. p. 134. ISBN 9783319183831.
  58. ^ Carmichael, Tim. Political Culture in Ethiopia's Provincial Administration: Haile Sellassie, Blata Ayele Gebre and the (Hareri) Kulub Movement of 1948. Boston University African Studies Center Press.
  59. ^ Wehib, Ahmed (October 2015). History of Harar and Harari (PDF). Harari people regional state, culture, heritage and tourism bureau. p. 141. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  60. ^ Weekes, Richard (1984-12-21). Muslim Peoples: A World Ethnographic Survey. Greenwood Publishers. p. 318. ISBN 9780313233920.