The Mosques of Harar
An Archaeological and Historical Study
Keywords:Mosques, Harar, Archaeology, History, Islamizsation
The mosques of Harar have been the focus of some architectural and historical study but not archaeological investigation. This was redressed through excavation of six mosques in the city, the results of which are presented. These were identified from existing historical research as significant in the Islamization of Harar. Consensus on either the date or processes of Islamization does not exist. The partial history of the mosques investigated—Aw Abdal, Aw Abadir, Aw Meshad, Din Agobera, Fehkredin, Jami—is based on only a few sources. The results of the excavations provide insights into the Islamization of Harar and supplement the limited historical sources. The six radiocarbon dates obtained indicate a varied mosque chronology spanning the late 15th and early 20th centuries AD. Evidence indicative of the use of mosques for educational purposes, local practices such as animal sacrifice and child burial near the mihrab, and for extensive mosque rebuilding, alteration and remodelling was found. Comparable mosques in Djibouti, Somaliland, and elsewhere in Ethiopia are considered. It is concluded that all the Harari mosques investigated post-date the late 15th century and that the city also dates from this era and was linked with the establishment of Harar as the capital of Adal. Prior to this the Hararis, likely in the form of the legendary Harla, were elsewhere, possibly at Harlaa and other sites in the eastern Harar Plateau and Chercher Mountains.
----- 2015. The Dirre Sheikh Hussein Religious, Cultural and Historical Site Management Plan 2015–2021. Addis Ababa: Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage.
Ahmed, A. M. 1990. “A Survey of the Harar Djugel (wall) and its gates.” Journal of Ethiopian Studies 23: 321–334.
Anonymous. 2012. Dirre Sheikh Hussein Religious, Cultural and Historical Site World Heritage Nomination Dossier. Addis Ababa: Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage.
Braukämper, U. 2004. Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia. Munster: Lit Verlag.
Burton, R. F. 1987 . First Footsteps in East Africa or, An Exploration of Harar Volume 2. New York: Dover Publications.
Caulk, R.A. 1977. “Harär town and its neighbours in the nineteenth century.” Journal of African History 18: 369–386. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021853700027316
Cerulli, E. 2013 . Islam Yesterday and Today. Translated by E. M. Waber. Rome: Istituto per l’Oriente.
Chiari, G. P. 2015. A Comprehensive Guide to Harar and Surroundings. Addis Ababa: Arada Books.
CIRPS and Harari People National Regional State. 2003. Cultural Heritage of Harar: Mosques, Islamic Holy Graves, and Traditional Harari Houses. A Comprehensive Map. Rome: University of Rome.
Curle, A. T. 1937. “The ruined towns of Somaliland.” Antiquity 11: 315–327. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003598X00012928
Drewes, A. 1983. “The library of Muhammad b. Ali b. Abd al-Sakur, Sultan of Harar.” In Arabian and Islamic Studies, edited by R. Bidwell and G. R. Smith, 68–79. London: Longman.
Erlich, H. 1994. Ethiopia and the Middle East. London: Lynne Riener.
Fauvelle-Aymar, F-X., B. Hirsch, L. Bruxelles, C. Mesfin, A. Chekroun and D. Ayenatchew. 2006. “Reconnaissance de Trois Villes Museulmanes de l’Epoque Médiévale dans l’Ifat.” Annales d’Ethiopie 22: 133–175. https://doi.org/10.3406/ethio.2006.1486
Fauvelle-Aymar, F-X., L. Bruxelles, A. Chekroun, R. Mensan, O. Onézime, A. Wubete, D. Ayenatchew, H. Zeleke, B. Hirsch and A. Mohamed. 2006. “A topographic survey and some soundings at Nora, an ancient Muslim town of Ethiopia.” Journal of Ethiopian Studies 39: 1–11.
Fauvelle-Aymar, F-X. and B. Hirsch. 2010. “Muslim historical spaces in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa: A reassessment.” Northeast African Studies 11: 25–53. https://doi.org/10.1353/nas.2004.0030
Fauvelle-Aymar, F-X., B. Hirsch, R. Bernard and F. Champagne. 2011. “Le Port de Zeyla et son Arrière-pays au Moyen Âge.” In Espaces Musulmans de la Corne de l’Afrique au Moyen Âge, edited by F-X. Fauvelle-Aymar and B. Hirsch, 27–34. Paris: De Boccard. https://doi.org/10.4000/books.cfee.698
Foucher, E. 1994. “The cult of Muslim saints in Harar: Religious dimension.” In Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Volume 2, edited by B. Zewde, R. Pankhurst and T. Beyene, 71–83. Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies.
Garlake, P. 1966. The Early Islamic Architecture of the East African Coast. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gibb, C. 2000. “Negotiating social and spiritual worlds: The gender of sanctity in a Muslim city in Africa.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 16: 25–42.
González-Ruibal, A., J. de Torres, M. A. Franco, M. A. Ali, A. M. Shabelle, C. M. Barrio and K. A. Aideed. 2017. “Exploring long distance trade in Somaliland (AD 1000–1900): Preliminary results from the 2015–2016 field seasons.” Azania 52: 135–172. https://doi.org/10.1080/0067270X.2017.1328214
Grau, R. 1981. “Handoga: Site d’habitat de pasteurs nomades?” Archéologia 159: 55–59.
Gutherz, X. 2013. “L’Archéologie à Djibouti.” In Djibouti Contemporain, edited by A. S. Chiré, 15–40. Paris: Karthala.
Harari People Regional State. 2015. History of Harar and the Hararis. The Harari People Regional State Culture, Heritage, and Tourism Bureau.
Hecht, E-D. 1982. “The city of Harar and the traditional Harar house.” Journal of Ethiopian Studies 15: 56–78.
Horton, M. 1994. “East Africa.” In The Mosque, edited by M. Frishman and H-U. Khan, 194–207. London: Thames and Hudson.
Insoll, T. 2003. The Archaeology of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
----- 2017. “First Footsteps in the Archaeology of Harar.” Journal of Islamic Archaeology 4: 189–215. https://doi.org/10.1558/jia.35273
----- In Press. “The Islamic archaeology of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.” The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Archaeology, edited by B. Walker, T. Insoll and C. Fenwick. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Insoll, T., ed. In Preparation. ‘Becoming Muslim’: The Archaeology of Harlaa, Harar, and Surrounding Region in Eastern Ethiopia. Leiden: Brill.
Insoll, T., N. Khalaf, R. MacLean and D. Zerihun. 2017. “Archaeological Survey and Excavations, Harlaa, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia January-February 2017. A Preliminary Fieldwork Report.” Nyame Akuma 87: 32-38.
Insoll, T., R. MacLean and B. Engda. 2016. “Archaeological survey and test excavations, Harlaa, Dire Dawa, and Sofi, Harari Regional State, Ethiopia:
A preliminary fieldwork report.” Nyame Akuma 85: 23–32.
Insoll, T., H. Tesfaye and M. S. Mahmoud. 2014. “Archaeological survey and test excavations, Harari Regional State, Ethiopia, July–August 2014. A preliminary fieldwork report.” Nyame Akuma 82: 100–109.
Mire, S. 2015 “Mapping the archaeology of Somaliland: Religion, art, script, time, urbanism, trade and empire.” African Archaeological Review 32: 111–136. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10437-015-9184-9
Østebø, T. 2012. Localising Salafism. Religious Change among Oromo Muslims in Bale, Ethiopia. Leiden: Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004217492
Pankhurst, R. 1987. “The manuscript bindings of Harar: A preliminary examination.” Azania 22: 47–54. https://doi.org/10.1080/00672708709511380
Paulitschke, P. 1888. Harar: Forschungreise nach den Somâl-und-Galla-ländern, Ost-Afrikas. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus.
Poissonnier, B., D. Ayenachew, R. Bernard and B. Hirsch. 2011. “Les Mosquées Médiévales de Goze et Fäqi Däbbis (Ifat).” In Espaces Musulmans de la Corne de l’Afrique au Moyen Âge, edited by F-X. Fauvelle-Aymar and B. Hirsch, 103–139. Paris: De Boccard. https://doi.org/10.4000/books.cfee.725
Pradines, S. and P. Blanchard. 2016. “Songo Mnara. Étude Architecturale d’une Ville Swahilie Médiévale.” Taarifa 5: 9–33.
Santelli, S. 2008. “Harar: The fourth Holy City of Islam.” In The City in the Islamic World, Volume 1, edited by S. K. Jayyusi, 625–641. Leiden: Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004162402.i-1500.166
Stenhouse, P., trans. 2003. Futuh al-Habasa. Hollywood, CA: Tsehai.
Tesfaye, H. 2011. Short Descriptions of Archaeological Sites in and around Harar. Unpublished Report. ARCCH, Addis Ababa.
Wagner, E. 1973. “Eine Liste der Heiligen von Harar.” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 123: 269–292.
----- 1974. “Three Arabic documents on the history of Harar.” Journal of Ethiopian Studies 12: 213–224.
Waldron, S.R. 1978. “Harar: The Muslim city in Ethiopia.” In Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Ethiopian Studies, edited by R. L. Hess, 239–257. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois at Chicago Circle.
Wilding, R. 1976. “Harari domestic architecture.” Art and Archaeology Research Papers 9: 31–37.
----- 1980. “The Desert Trade of Eastern Ethiopia.” In Proceedings of the 8th Panafrican Congress, edited by R. E. Leakey and B. A. Ogot, 379–380. Nairobi: Louis Leakey Institute.
Zekaria, A. 1979. The Mosques of Harar. Unpublished PhD thesis. Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University.
----- 1987. “Some notes on the account-book of Am?r ?Abd Al-Shak?r b. Y?suf (1783–1794) of Harar.” Sudanic Africa 8: 17–36.
----- 2001. “Harari coins: A preliminary survey.” Journal of Ethiopian Studies 24: 23–46.
----- 2003. “Some remarks on the shrines of Harar.” In Saints, Biographies and History in Africa, edited by B. Hirsch and M. Kropp, 19–29. Frankfurt AM: Peter Lang.
How to Cite
© Equinox Publishing Ltd.
For information regarding our Open Access policy, click here.