Harari people

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Harari (Geyusu)
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Islam(Sunni, Sufi)
Related ethnic groups
Afar, Silt'e, Zay, Somali, Oromo, Argobba and other Ethiosemitic and Cushitic peoples.

The Harari people (Arabic: هراري‎), (Ge'ez: ሓራር) also called Geyusu ("People of the City"), are an ethnic group inhabiting the Horn of Africa. Members traditionally reside in the city of Harar, situated in the Harari Region of eastern Ethiopia. They speak Harari, an Afro-Asiatic language of the Semitic branch.


Harari women holding a traditional coffee ceremony.

According to Ulrich Braukämper, comprehensive analysis of the available data on the Harari suggests that they are a composite population, formed by a fusion of Cushitic speakers that likely already inhabited the Harar region with various Semitic-speaking groups that later entered the area from a northern direction.

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.[2] Braukämper also posits 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 region, although he concedes that there is no linguistic proof to confirm this. He further suggests that the Great Oromo Migration may have effectively split this putative ethnolinguistic block to the Lake Zway islands, Gurage territory, and Harar.[3] 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.[2]

The Harari people themselves assert descent from Sheikh Abadir Umar Ar-Rida, also known as Fiqi Umar, who traced his lineage to the first caliph, Abu Bakr (Sayid Abubakar Al-Sadiq). According to the explorer Richard F. 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.[4]


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

The Harari people speak the Harari language, an Afro-Asiatic language of the Semitic branch referred to as Gey Sinan ("Language of the City"). It is closely related to the East Gurage languages and similar to Zay and Silt'e.

According to linguistic research by Enrico Cerulli, among others, Harari contains a substratum influence from Sidama. This suggests that the inhabitants of Harar originally spoke Sidama, with the Harari language later grafted onto it.[5]

After the Egyptian conquest of Harar, numerous loan words were additionally borrowed from Arabic. Gey Sinan was historically written using the Arabic script. More recently, it has been transcribed with the Ge'ez alphabet.

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.[1]

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.[1]


Virtually all Harari are Muslim. The earliest kabir or Islamic teacher in the community was Aw Sofi Yahya. He arrived in Harar in 1216 as part of Sheikh Abadir's retinue. Yahya subsequently established the area's first Qur'an gey or madrassah around 10 kilometers to the south of the city center.[6]


Composing just under 10% within their own city, Harari people have moved throughout Ethiopia, mainly to Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, establishing families and businesses. The Harari people have also spread throughout North America, mainly to Washington D.C., Atlanta, Toronto, Dallas, and Los Angeles. Furthermore a minority of the Harari people lives in Europe in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Great Britain. There is an estimated 75,000 to 120,000 Harari peoples worldwide.[citation needed]

Notable Hararis[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ethnologue - Harari language
  2. ^ a b Braukämper, Ulrich (2002). Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia: Collected Essays. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 37. ISBN 3825856712. 
  3. ^ Braukämper, Ulrich (2002). Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia: Collected Essays. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 18. ISBN 3825856712. 
  4. ^ Richard Burton, First Footsteps in East Africa, 1856; edited with an introduction and additional chapters by Gordon Waterfield (New York: Praeger, 1966), p. 165
  5. ^ Universität Wien, Institut für Völkerkunde (1952). Acta ethnologica et linguistica, Issues 3-5. Elisabeth Stiglmayr. p. 98. 
  6. ^ Siegbert Uhlig, Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: He-N, Volume 3, (Otto Harrassowitz Verlag: 2007), pp.111 & 319