Hanging out with the hyenas in Harar

     I didn’t like Harar at first glance, but I arrived on a Saturday, midday, when everything is closed and everyone in a khat stupor. (More on khat soon.)
     Come Monday the old town was in its full splendor, and even though the old town isn’t as atmospheric as I expected, the people-watching is fantastic. Different ethnic groups are out here, and they are striking. Few women are in western clothes, rather they are in a colorful swirl of lightweight robes, shawls and skirts. The chaotic markets feel like they couldn’t have changed in hundreds of years.
     I met up with Chris from Liverpool (a chain smoker affiliated with the UK Cancer Institute) and last night, as you do in Harar, we went to see the hyena feeding on the edge of town. Wild hyenas, normally pretty ferocious animals, are tame enough to come and be fed strips of meat by a guy who has developed a rapport with them. I wonder about the fate of those people who failed to develop such a good working relationship with the hyenas.

     It’s a little ridiculous. The hyenas are so tame I have the feeling that next year they will be balancing balls on their heads and the guy will be working the crowd in five languages in a hyena stadium. The guy already appears to be doing very well judging by his gaudy gold chains. Still, hyenas are interesting animals and it is spellbinding to be so close to watch them.
     Enough people have been paying 50 birr ($3) for long enough now that they hooked up a light so everyone can see the show instead of hoping that a rich tourist will show up in a taxi and keep the headlights on.

     The local barefoot butcher in 32C (90F) heat. This was the first time I paid to take a photo.

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