Visual Stories From Harar
by Ana Rivas

As a curious person and lover of Photography, I have had the opportunity to travel around the world. A few years ago, I discovered a region in Eastern Ethiopia, between Djibouti and Somalia, that caught me deeply, Harar Jugol, the capital of the mountainous and fertile Harari region. It is a sacred Muslim island immersed in a Christian Orthodox country, located at 500 km to the East from Addis Ababa.

I have visited the historic Harar three times and it has always fascinated me. Its people, its pulse, its light, the bright colors of its houses. The narrow alleys encircled within the medieval wall take us hundreds of years back, where time seems to be suspended. I feel like doing Street Photography in a Middle Age site after travelling in time to this Ethiopian unique walled city. The explorer Richard Burton already recognized its particular character and disguised himself in 1854 as a woman to be able to enter the fortified historic town which was already an important trade center.

Harar, considered the fourth holy city of Islam, and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2006, is not only the living reflection of a wealthy and splendid past time, it still keeps a frantic commercial activity, thanks nowadays to the trade and export of khat -o qat- a plant cultivated mainly in that area.

The chewing of the leaves produces a potent psychostimulant effect, similar to amphetamines, of increasing consumption in the Horn of Africa and the Arabic countries.

Nevertheless, many Hararis migrate to EU or Americas looking for another more comfortable life. I travel back to Harar expecting egoistically to continue finding the lively markets around the ancient wall, the colorful hidden alleys in its unique urban plan and the proud gaze of its citizens who struggle between the preservation of their particular traditions and the wish to enroll themselves in this modern globalizing World.

The accordion format of this photobook aims you to create your own photo stories of Harar. Fold and unfold, interact with it, walk through the alleys and markets by yourself, build your own photo sequences and discover your Harar.