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The Harla, also known as Dir, Samale, Arla or Madaluug Dir,[1] were an ethnic group that inhabited Ethiopia and Somalia. They spoke the now extinct Harla language, which belonged to either the Cushitic[2] or Semitic branches of the Afroasiatic family.[3][4] There are existing books like that called "Kitaab al-Faraa'id" meaning "The Book of Obligations" in old Harari written roughly 500 years ago; literature when Hararis were referred to as "Harla" at that time as attested to in the book "Conquest of Abyssinia." They are believed to be ancestors of the Harari people.[5]

Regions with significant populations
Harla(Af Harlaad)


The Harla are credited by the present-day inhabitants of Hararghe (province of Ethiopia) with having constructed various historical sites found in the province. Although now mostly lying in ruins, these structures include stone necropoleis, store pits, mosques and houses. According to the scholars Azais, Chambard and Huntingford, the builders of these monumental edifices were ancestral to the Somalis ("proto-Somali"). Tradition states one of Harla's main towns was Metehara and the area between Harar and Dire Dawa is still referred to as Harla.[6] The Harla were of Hamitic ancestral stock, and were of tall stature. They inhabited Tchertcher and various other areas in the Horn, where they erected various tumuli.[1] In the ninth century, the earliest known Muslim kingdom in the Horn of Africa, Makhzumi dynasty, sprung up in Harla country. The Makhzumi capital Walale was in Northern Hararghe.[7][8] Makhzumi state was known within the Arab world as part of the country of Zeila and by Jewish travelers as the land of Havilah.[9][10] Sixteenth century saw Oromo's invading regions of Somalia from the northern areas of Hargeisa to its southern portions such as Lower Juba, incorporating the Harla people.[11] According to thirteenth century Arab geographer Ibn Sa'id al-Maghribi, the country of Harla was east of Abyssinia and north of Zanj. Harla clans descendant from Sadadin participated in the sixteenth century Abyssinian-Adal war.[12] Ibn Said further states the Harla territory passed the Blue Nile, north east and ended near the shores, the Harla made a living in the gold and silver mines.[13] In 1893 British led expeditions, came across an ancient town in Nugaal Valley Somalia, the local Dhulbahante tribe alleged the Harla had lived in the area before the Oromo invasions.[14] According to folklore, the Harla reportedly had a queen named Arawelo, who ruled much of the eastern parts of the Horn of Africa. In Zeila a clan called Harla claims to be related to the ancient people. Locals in Zeila also attested that the old town of Amoud was built by the Harla.[15] The Harla people closest allies were the ancient Somalis.[16] Somali clans have links to the Harla. Most particularly the Issa subclan of the Madoobe Dir. Within the Issa, the Harla are found within 2 clan divisions. The first being the Horroone clan division, where they are called Harla, and they are also found within the Eeleye clan division as Bah Harla and Harla Muse. All segments regard themselves as Dir.[17] Abdirahman bin Isma'il al-Jabarti and Darod ancestors of the Ogaden clan supposedly have ties to Harla. The Darod sub clan Harti and Geri are furthermore according to tradition, the brothers of Harla.[18][19] The Afar also have tribes linked to Harla are called Kabirtu.[20] In Afar region, clans named after Harla are found among farmers in Aussa, and Awash district between Dubti and Afambo. The moniker of clans proposes a fusion between native and immigrating tribes.[21]

Field research by Enrico Cerulli identified a modern group called the "Harla" living amongst the Somali in the region between the cities of Harar and Jijiga. Encyclopaedia Aethiopica suggests that this population "may be a remnant group of the old [Harla], that integrated into the Somali genealogical system, but kept a partially separate identity by developing a language of their own." Cerulli published some data on this Harla community's language, called af Harlaad, which resembled the Somali languages spoken by the Yibir and Madhiban low-caste groups.[2]And Muse clan

The influx of Arab immigrants such as Abadir into Harla territory would lead to the development of the town of Harar known then as Ge.[22] Harar would become the leading center of Islam in the Horn of Africa.[23] According to Ethiopian accounts, in the 14th century, the Harla battled against the forces of emperor Amda Seyon I in what is now Northern Somalia.[24] In the wars against Emperor Sarsa Dengel, the Harla were led by Muhammed IV of Harar.[25][26][27] The Harari people are considered to be the closest remaining link to the Harla people. The Harla tribe's disappearance could have been due to the Abyssinian–Adal war in the sixteenth century, destitution, or assimilation by invading Oromos.[28] Local folklore from the Harla village near Dire Dawa, however claim Harla were farmers from the Ogaden and went extinct because of their arrogance, refusing to fast in Ramadan, and attempts to have the Quran written in Harla language, hence were cursed by God.[29] Strong evidence suggests that during the Great Oromo Migrations, the remaining Harla retreated behind the walls of Harar and were able to survive culturally.[30] In 2017, a Harla town that produced jewelry was discovered by archaeologists. The architecture of a mosque found affirmed Harla had ties with Islamic centers in Tanzania and Somalia.[31]


In terms of religious beliefs, the Harla practised a pre-Islamic religion until around the 10th or 11th century. This marks the period where the Harla people eventually converted to Islam by Somali traders and saints from Zeila.[32]

Notable HarlansEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Joussaume, Roger (1976). "Fouille d'un tumulus à Ganda Hassan Abdi dans les monts du Harar". Annales d'Ethiopie. 10: 25–39. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b Uhlig 2003, p. 1034.
  3. ^ Nehemia Levtzion, Randall Pouwels The History of Islam in Africa - Google Books" Ohio University Press, 2000. p. 228.
  4. ^ Braukämper, Ulrich (2002). Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia: Collected Essays. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 19. ISBN 3825856712.
  5. ^ Quellec, Jean. Rock Art in Africa. Flammarion. p. 129. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  6. ^ Braukämper 2002, p. 18.
  7. ^ The Ethno-History of Halaba People (PDF). p. 15. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  8. ^ Braukhaper, Ulrich (2002). Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia: Collected Essays. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 21. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  9. ^ Meri, Josef (2006). Medieval Islamic Civilization: A-K, index. Taylor and Francis. p. 12. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  10. ^ Adler, Elkan (4 April 2014). Jewish Travelers. Routledge. p. 61. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  11. ^ The proceedings of the First International Congress of Somali Studies. Scholars Press. 1992. p. 155. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  12. ^ Chekroun, Amélie. Le” Futuh al-Habasa”: écriture de l’histoire, guerre et société dans le Bar Sa’ad ad-din. Université Panthéon-Sorbonn. p. 197-198.
  13. ^ Maghribi, Said. Ibn Said. p. 405.
  14. ^ Murray, J (1893). "Supplementary Papers". Royal Geographical Society (Great Britain). 3: 551. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  15. ^ Rayne, Henry (October 1938). "QUEEN ARAWEILO". Blackwoods Magazine. 238: 568-578. Archived from the original on 27 June 2001. Retrieved 20 June 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  16. ^ Fage, J.D (1975). The Cambridge History of Africa, Volume 3. Cambridge University Press. p. 154. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  17. ^ Ali, Ibrahim (1993). The History and Origins of the Somali people. Wales. p. 59. ISBN 0 9518924 5 2.
  18. ^ B, Ulrich. Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia: Collected Essays. p. 18.
  19. ^ E, Ralph. British Somaliland. HURST & BLACKETT. p. 84.
  20. ^ History of Harar and Harari (PDF). Harari tourism bureau. p. 29. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  21. ^ Chekroun, Amelle. The Harla: archeology and memory of the giants of Ethiopia. French center for Ethiopian studies. p. 47.
  22. ^ Budge, E.A (1 August 2014). A History of Ethiopia: Volume I (Routledge Revivals): Nubia and Abyssinia. Routledge. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  23. ^ Cakmak, Cenap (31 May 2017). Islam: A Worldwide Encyclopedia [4 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 416. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  24. ^ Pankhurst 1997, p. 45.
  25. ^ "The Source of the Nile". Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, in the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772, & 1773. 3: 238. 1813. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  26. ^ Dombrowski, Franz (1985). Ethiopia's Access to the Sea. Brill. p. 23. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  27. ^ Pankhurst, Richard (1997). The Ethiopian Borderlands: Essays in Regional History from Ancient Times to the End of the 18th Century. The Red Sea Press. p. 375. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  28. ^ Braukämper 2002, p. 107.
  29. ^ Quellec, Jean. "et al": 4. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  30. ^ Gebissa 2004, p. 36.
  31. ^ "Archaeologists in Ethiopia uncover ancient city in Harlaa". BBC NEWS. 16 June 2017. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  32. ^ Briggs, Phillip (2012). Somaliland. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 7. ISBN 1841623717.

Works citedEdit