Harar Jugol, Preserving the cultural identity of the fortified historic town

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Harar Jugol Preserving the cultural identity of the fortified historic town

Harar Jugol

Preserving the cultural identity of the fortified historic town

author: Pavel Pavlov reg.no: 201855286 date: August, 2019 supervisor: Prof Ashraf Salama word count: 12 915 MSc Architectural Studies Department of Architecture University of Strathclyde

Declaration Master’s Thesis 2018/19 MArch Architectural Design (International)

“I hereby declare that this thesis submission is my own work and has been composed by myself. It contains no unacknowledged text and has not been submitted in any previous context. All quotations have been distinguished by quotation marks and all sources of information, text, illustration, tables, images etc. have been specifically acknowledged. I accept that if having signed this Declaration my work should be found at Examination to show evidence of academic dishonesty the work will fail and I will be liable to face the University Senate Discipline Committee.”

Signed: Name: Pavel Pavlov Date: 10/08/2019

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Table of Contents

Declaration Acknowledgements Abstract

4 6 7

Chapter 0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6

Introduction Background and motivation Problem statement Research context Thesis structure Research questions Objectives

8 10 12 13 14 16 16

Chapter 1



Chapter 2 2.1 2.2 2.3

Cultural Identity and Tradition in the Built Environment Cultural Identity and Heritage What is tradition? Problems related to culture and tradition

18 18 19 21

Chapter 3 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5

22 22 26 28 30 38

Chapter 4 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.3

Harar Jugol Historic Evolution Socio-economic and urban structure Buffer zone and immediate surroundings Traditional Harari house The Indian and mixed house Findings Social structure and demographic changes Transformation of the immediate surroundings Townscape The houses of Harar

Chapter 5 Chapter 6

Discussion Conclusions and Recommendations

56 60

List of figures Bibliography

62 65

7 8

40 40 42 44 48

Acknowledgements I would like to express my sincere gratitude: To Andrew McAvoy and Ulrike Enslein, my tutors who eventually decided to support my endeavours and made sure that I safely, but delightfully experience this entire adventure; To The Glasgow Educational & Marshall Trust, for giving me the incredible opportunity to visit and experience Harar; To Professor Ashraf Salama, for the continuous and invaluable supervision throughout this thesis; To my friends, who regularly emphasized the uncertainty of my venture but also made the journey enjoyable. To my family, who suppressed their worries and patiently trusted me throughout these years. And most importantly - to my new friends from Harar, especially Adil, Abdulmajid, Mahir, Tasti and Hamdi, who made my stay in Harar unforgettable and this research paper worthwhile.

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Abstract In times of globalisation and urbanisation it becomes increasingly important to preserve the cultural identity of urban communities. The thesis investigates the case of Harar Jugol, an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, which is now vulnerable to contemporary mutations. The study analyses the evolution of the town and its relationship to the “process� of tradition as a fundamental transformative force. It identifies the built heritage as an expression of the traditional norms and values of the local community and points at the key pressures that are threatening its urban integrity. Research was conducted during a two week fieldwork in Harar where qualitative data was gathered through photographic surveys, interviews and typological analysis. The study was strengthened by an interpretative phenomenological analysis which highlighted the significance of the traditional Harari house as an artifact of the indigenous community. The town was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006 which gives it a protected status and aims to preserve and revitalise its urban heritage. However, investigation has shown insignificant progress on the highlighted issues, as well as transformations incongruous with the cultural value of the built environment. The paper outlines urban heritage preservation as a fundamental medium towards strengthening the cultural identity and therefore resilience of traditional communities. It evaluates the influence of historical, socioeconomic and demographic conditions on the peculiar architecture of Harar. The study investigates the cohesion between the urban and surrounding natural environment, as well as the development and authenticity of the townscape. The results have shown serious maintenance difficulties and unregulated alterations of the traditional forms, as well as precedents of the implementation of modernity into the historic built environment. The paper concludes that the weak political authority and lack of rigorous conservation policies have exposed Harar’s cultural heritage to an uncertain faith.

0. Introduction The World is experiencing a phase during which the rate of changes of the environment has made it increasingly harder for individuals and societies to adapt (Friedman, 2016). These modern changes - technological, geophysical and social, have created new, more prominent challenges for communities striving for autonomy. Furthermore, the increasing pace of globalisation and the resulting affirmation of singular identity pose a severe threat to local traditions, norms and values (Mahgoub, 2007). In many parts of the world, architecture has become the medium for encapsulating these indigenous identities. The built expressions of their heritage continue to be transmitted through generations in the form of traditional dwellings and settlements (AlSayyad, 2014). Moreover, the evolution of tradition can be perceived as a reflection of the mutations affecting the built environment. Harar Jugol is one of the outstanding examples of a traditional settlement that is now vulnerable to such contemporary transformations (UNESCO World Heritage, 2006). Located on a hilltop in the eastern extension of the Ethiopian Highlands, the town demonstrates a symbiotic relationship with the surrounding landscape. The town is considered “the fourth holy city” of Islam, found by a holy missionary from the Arabic Peninsula. It’s urban fabric and cultural traditions carry exceptional testimony related to Islamic and African roots. Their impact has influenced the development of specific building types, which give Harar a unique character. The most prominent/ spectacular part of the cultural heritage of Harar is the traditional Harari house, which has an architectural form that is very typical, specific and original, differentiating from the traditional layout known in Muslim countries, although reminiscent of the coastal Arab architecture. By “Harari culture” Harari people refer to the beauty of their houses, taking pride in their uniqueness and exceptional interior design. The town has developed as a centre of trade and therefore merchants have introduced foreign styles of houses in the past. However, the traditional Harari house has managed to stand the test of time and has preserved its relevance until today. It is an artifact that reflects the culture, traditions and everyday activities of local people.

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Ultimately, the impact of the modern world on the community of Harar has led to inevitable mutations of the physical environment. Overpopulation, climatic and demographic changes have produced new challenges for the centuries-long form of the house. As a result, in the quest for adaptation, the citizens of Harar have commenced alterations to their homes which occasionally have destructive consequences for their symbolical value (Alansari, 2018). As the level of abstraction of these alterations increases, the significance of the embodied culture becomes less relevant in its context (AlSayyad, 2014). Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to acknowledge the rationale for these changes and implement a system of regulations that ensures a sustainable and resilient urban development. The paper analyses the evolution of the Harari tradition in order to identify potential enhancement strategies whilst preserving the symbolical value of the traditional Harari house and ultimately the cultural identity of Harari people.

fig. 1: Thresholds

0.1 Background and Motivation This research paper was preceded and inspired by my Postgraduate Diploma project. During my final year of architecture, I decided to explore unconventional education models suitable for the most critical part of the world – Sub-Saharan Africa, conveyed through architecture. The project’s initial objective was to use the Allegory of the Cave by Plato as a paradigm for the importance of education. It aimed at providing more effective methods of primary education with an aspiration to improve the socio-economic situation of a chosen community. After familiarising myself with the economic ambitions and political state of the countries in the area, as well as their educational agendas, I concluded that many of them are cautiously recognising the issues related to endless poverty and political conflicts and putting efforts to invert the situation. One country that stood out was Ethiopia, projecting an economic growth of nearly 10.5% in spite of its internal conflicts (The World Bank Group, 2018). When it comes to education, the country has achieved admirable results, projecting over 90% enrolment rate in primary schools (Federal Ministry of Education, 2016). Ethiopia’s ambitious agenda for achieving a middle income status by 2025, in combination with its rich history and cultural diversity, drew my attention. Currently, the country is one of few with rural regions accounting for nearly 79% of the population, however, rapid urbanisation is creating new challenges for its urban centres. As a result, the social and cultural integrity and authenticity of towns becomes vulnerable to contemporary mutations.

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This problem is particularly substantial for Harar Jugol. The town, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site for its indigenous cultural identity and unique architecture, is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement that is being devoured under the pressure of demographic changes in its area. It is considered one of the originators of civilisation in Ethiopia, and has endured generations of religious pressure because of its Islamic origins. During my project I identified the socio-economic and environmental pressures on the local community in order to explore ways of preserving its culture and traditions. My proposal is an unconventional, contextspecific approach to reaching the learning outcomes of primary education by offering an academic agglomeration that utilizes the existing local conditions. I believe that by providing a positive traditional environment and encouraging spaces for interaction, local children, regardless of their ethnic origins, can adopt the core principals and ideals embodied in Harari culture in an attempt for a peaceful, prosperous, unified and resilient community.

fig. 2: Free space

0.2 Problem Statement The historical town of Harar has survived centuries of religious, political and ethnic pressures by maintaining its specific character (Idris, 2019). The town is a product of a complex composition of natural and cultural conditions which constitute its uniqueness (Kostof, 2014). However, the impact of seemingly negligible deviations has been increasing proportionately to the rapid speed of modern day global transformations. Climate change, urbanisation, demographic changes and the implementation of new technologies have created new challenges for the local community (UNESCO World Heritage, 2006). The indigenous Harari group, historically a majority within the walled city, now constitutes for approximately 10% of the composition of the town as a result of ethnic cleansing during the Haile Selassie regime in 1940s (Desplat, 2016). Jugol’s Harari community not only has failed to recover since then but has also been gradually decreasing due to low birth rate and emigration in comparison to new coming groups from Oromo, Amharic and other backgrounds (Ibrahim, 2015). Protecting the built heritage of the town, an expression of the peculiar Harari culture, has become an imperative step towards preserving its cultural identity. The most prominent component of Harar – the surrounding wall, has become a symbol that both confines and strengthens the spatial and social organisation of the town. Together with the city gates, the wall serves as a source of pride and identity for the community. However, it is now a subject of neglect and environmental degradation. This is a recurring theme with all other distinctive elements of Harar’s urban fabric. While the majority of mosques and shrines are regularly maintained, the condition of the dwellings is gradually worsening due to poor property management regulations and lack of funding (Bekri, 2019). From 6797 dwellings throughout 2567 compounds present within the ramparts of the town, only 1809 can be identified as traditional Harari houses of particular cultural and artistic value (Bianchini, et al., 2009). Unlike other historic towns, Jugol has preserved the authenticity of its urban fabric, however new agendas are more focused towards new development than conservation (Hadjri & Boussaa, 2007). The issue is emphasized by unregulated restoration and construction works which demonstrate the use of non-traditional and aesthetically unpleasing materials and techniques. For example, many ornamented wooden windows and doors have been replaced with modern steel frames for improved security. 12 /page

When it comes to environmental pressures, there is a distinct lack of adequate waste management and drainage system, which not only spoils the quality of public spaces, but is the source of many serious illnesses and contributes to the pollution of the nearby water sources. Likewise, both liquid and domestic water waste flood the streets and subsequently the rivers around Harar with contaminative substances which have disastrous consequences for both the urban and the rural environments. The issues are emphasized by the increasing density of Jugol and demand for housing stock, which is further troubled by the lack of appropriate infrastructure and often leads to unsuitable housing alterations. This outlines the necessity for establishing and implementing a set of time-relevant regulations which ensure a sustainable development of the cultural heritage.

fig. 3: Dump site

0.3 Research Context Harar Jugol is an excellent and complete example of a traditional human settlement which portrays a significant Islamic cultural aspect of Ethiopian history. Its urban development and typical planning characteristics are an expression of the compelling and protracted religious influence. The structure of the city, which illustrates a central core occupied with commercial and religious buildings, is a reference to the traditional Islamic urban structure. The presence of mosques and tombs, as well as the formation of a specific and original housing typology created in an important cultural artifact, which gives testimony of a Harari religious and social tradition that has been well preserved by the community and continues to be relevant today. The city is considered the fourth holy city of Islam, found by a holy missionary from the Arabic Peninsula and to an extent because of Ethiopia’s historical accommodation of followers of the Prophet who were seeking sanctuary. This is evident from the presence of nearly a hundred mosques and more than ninety shrines scattered throughout the dense urban residential fabric. What is more, the town is one of the major historical cities in Africa, and the only one in Ethiopia considered to be the originator of civilisation in the country. Harar is an excellent precedent of a contextspecific settlement with a peculiar culture that is now vulnerable to “contemporary demographic mutations� (UNESCO World Heritage, 2006).

fig. 4a: Mosque

fig. 4b: Mosque

0.4 Thesis Structure 2. Approach to investigation The chapter describes the methodology used to conduct this research paper. It outlines the combination of strategies and techniques used to obtain the required empirical data and to critically analyse it. The approach reflects the chronological order in which the study was carried and its intuitive evolution in parallel to progress of the research. 3. Cultural identity, the evolution of tradition and their influence on the built environment Studying traditional dwellings and settlements necessitates a comprehensive understanding of the socio-cultural values and norms of communities. Their holistic portrayal defines the narrative about the relationship between tradition, culture and heritage. The chapter explains the importance of preserving the cultural identity of indigenous communities in an age of rapid changes. It defines the core principles of traditions and the conditions determining its evolution. Tradition is characterised as one of the forces driving the transformation of the built environment. The key issues related to the evolution of tradition are then identified and outlined. 4. Harar Jugol, history and characteristics Harar Jugol is a traditional human settlement which demonstrates the exceptional symbiosis between Islamic and African roots. The chapter illustrates the impact that traditions have on the built environment. It describes the historical causes for the formation of its architectural and urban heritage and the development of specific building types which reflect an indigenous culture. Harar’s evolution is expressed through the variety of relationships that the Harari community has established at different urban scales. The traditional Harari house is investigated as an independent environment with its own micro-realms. 5. Findings Harar Jugol was included in UNESCO’s World heritage list nearly 15 years ago. This period can be analysed as a portrayal of the transformation that the town has undergone. The chapter presents evidence of the current relationship of Jugol with its immediate surroundings, which is a reflection of the recognition and compliance with the proposed management plan. What is more, it exhibits the modernisation of local traditions and its influence on the built environment. The lifestyle and perception of Harari people is conveyed through the manifestation of informal discussions. 6. Discussion Harar’s current state of the housing stock, as well as a number of newly appearing forms, raise questions about the agenda that local authorities are following. The chapter compares the initial analysis of the town with the present condition of the urban environment. It argues that the implementation of regulating policies has been neglected by heritage preservation advocates and as a result – by the community of Harar. The transformation of the Harari architectural heritage is subjectively interpreted in regards to the evolution of traditional cultural norms.

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fig. 5: Contrasting economic status

0.5 Research Questions

0.6 Objectives

1. What is the relationship between the cultural identity of Harari people and their architectural heritage?

1. investigate the influence of tradition on the transformation of the built environment; analyse the methods for ensuring a good acceptance of traditional and cultural norms by future generations

2. How has the inscribed buffer zone developed under the pressure of increasing population of Harar and the resulting urban sprawl?

2. identify the impact of urban development on the the cohesion of the town and its immediate surroundings and the sustainable exploitation of natural resources

3. How is Harari culture perceived by newcomers from different ethnic groups? 4. How have UNESCO’s recommendations been reflected and impremented in Jugol’s urban development?

3. identify the social structure and demographic changes of the historic town 4. examine the evolution of the urban fabric and the adoption of traditional techniques into contemporary building typologies

5. Has there been any implications for the members of the community who have commenced unauthorised construction work and alterations to their houses?

5. analyse the condition of the housing stock and the symbolic value of the house form; identify the cultural aspects which have transformed the initial form of the house

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6. typological analysis

5. socio-spatial analysis

4. investigation of historical evolution

3. fieldwork  documentation  interviews  mapping   photographic survey

2. literary analysis

1. critical review

approach to investigation

as a transformation force

V. Modernity

urban center

IV. The Harari house

as an expression of the indigenous Harari culture, modified by the contextual and traditional conditions

as a fundamental reference of the cultural identity and originator of identity for the rest of the city

6. evaluate the clash between culture and modernity and how is this affecting the integrity of the house today

III. Harar Jugol, the historic

maintaining a positive relationship between the demand for housing stock and the condition of the surrounding landscape

the Natural and Built Environment

II. Physical Integrity of

as a process of transmission between generations which influences the evolution of the cultural heritage.



key aspects for investigation

6. How has technology been implemented into the built environment and does it maintain its traditional norms and authenticity?

1. Methodology The thesis examines the resilience of the cultural identity of Harar Jugol, a traditional human settlement in Ethiopia with an outstanding architectural heritage. The research draws parallels between the conditions of the built environment as outlined by UNESCO’s World Heritage report in 2004 and the current state of the town in relation to the local development plan and strategies. Through a combined historical and qualitative research, the paper analyses and identifies the transformation that the town of Harar has undergone, as well as the factors that have been driving this change (Groat & Wang, 2013). The study investigates both the physical and the social dimensions of the town and evaluates their historical evolution in respect to the established local traditions. The Traditional Harari house is recognised as an artifact carrying the symbolism of the local cultural identity. Initially, the study was approached by critically reviewing the UNESCO world heritage inscription report, which highlights the merit of Harar’s cultural and architectural legacy and establishes the contextual background. Additional literary analysis explains the fundamental conditions and influence that tradition has on the built environment. The study then outlines and draws conclusions on key issues related to the loss of cultural identity and the process of tradition as a determining factor for the transformation of the architectural heritage. The rest of the research was carried during a two week visit to Harar, Ethiopia. Empirical data was obtained through a combination of systematic observation, with pre-defined points of interest being analysed and photographically recorded, and participant observation conducted in an open and free manner, with no pre-determined objectives. Integrating various research tactics contributed to making comprehensive conclusions on certain aspects of the identified areas of study. For the majority of the fieldwork, the author undertook a phenomenological approach, putting himself close to the local community and seeking to understand the experience of living in Harar Jugol through the perspective of the local residents. During the conducted investigation, the primary participants of the study were from the same generation as the researcher. Therefore, it was convenient to get involved in their daily activities whilst keeping the subjects of inquiry in their natural setting. Such research tactics for engaging the community within the studied context predisposes them to candidly express their feelings and concerns about the environment that they live in. Following the qualitative research model, the author emphasized on the inductive process of inquiry in his aim to clarify the various critical factors influencing the transformations of Harar’s urban fabric.

The fieldwork study began by formulating openended questions about the demographic growth of the town and the state of the housing stock within the walls of Jugol. However, as the participants brought up previously unknown issues, it appeared that much of the initial reasons for the already identified issues might originate from a different source. These newly emerged aspects defined new areas for investigation and required interviews not only with advocates of the architectural heritage, but also social representatives. In order for the author to uncover and comprehend the essential or universal qualities of the phenomena, he spent the majority of the time in Harar conducting informal conversations and discussions with a group of local residents from various ethnic origins. By ‘bracketing’ any prejudices, the researcher allowed himself to experience different points of view on the raised matters. It is only possible to illustrate a holistic portrayal of the analysed setting by acknowledging the way that the respondents make sense of their own circumstances. When explaining in detail the critical issues identified in this study, the participants are provoked to express their personal interpretation of the local traditions. As the story unfolds, the investigation evolves into an iterative process. Historical research is then conducted through an interview with a local sociologist and ex-secretary-general of the Harari region, narrated from a Harari perspective (Idris, 2019). This produced recollective evidence, which broadened previous historical information. Specific contextual information was obtained, explaining the traditional norms influencing the physical form of the Harari house. As a reflection of the increased understanding of the situation, the study’s direction was pointed towards comparing the communal perception to the views of the local authorities. During an interview with the director of ‘Jugol Heritage Conservation Office’ questions were raised regarding the implementation of previously established policies and the plans for future management of Jugol’s urban integrity (Bekri, 2019). This then produced questionable evidence on the authority of the local institutions and demanded an additional interview with the ex-head of the Harar’s Department for Urban Development, who confirmed the credibility of the acquired information. The rest of the fieldwork was focused on the typological analysis of the traditional Harari house. After understanding the socio-spatial relationship of Harari citizens to the physical environment, a photographic survey was conducted. The generated set of data captured and documented the transformation of the Harar’s surrounding landscape, urban fabric and housing forms. It acts as a basis for interpretation and reflection of the social impact on the cultural identity and architectural heritage of the town.

2. Cultural Identity and Tradition in the Built Environment The destiny of historic cities in an age of rapid urbanisation and population growth is marked by uncertainty (Aberha, 2018). Since the 20th century, urban development in these cities has created new opportunities for today’s dynamic environmental, socio-economic and political changes and the requirements they bring. However, the resulting transformations are capable of having destructive consequences to the peculiar character of cities. This highlights the emerging need for urban development strategies that, on one hand tolerate contemporary demands, but on the other hand recognise the importance of preserving the indigenous cultural integrity (Alhasani, 1996). One of the most prominent references for the identity of cities are their historic urban centres. They are a testimony of the traditional norms and values that originally shaped the built environment and emphasize the identity, memory and sense of belonging of a place. What is more, these centres usually establish an urban identity amongst the rest of a city and the surrounding areas (Carrion, 2005). Therefore, the mission of preserving a city’s identity involves the regeneration of both architectural and spiritual heritage.

Cultural Identity and Heritage The meaning of every society’s cultural identity in the current age of globalisation is encapsulated in its cultural heritage. It is a resource representing the values, ideas, beliefs, and customs of people. The resilience and progress of communities is deeply influenced by the various symbolical artifacts representing their traditional norms. Heritage embodies the history of a place and reflects its evolution as a civilisation. It is also a reference to the religious, cultural, social and political dimensions of a society. What is more, in Islamic communities the appreciation for heritage broadens the sense of life and God. As such, maintaining its authenticity becomes necessary in the quest to preserve the identity of communities. Furthermore, it is essential that the preservation, renovation and occupation of the heritage is synchronised with a cautious use of the natural and manmade resources. The sustainable development of cultural and natural heritage is reviewed in a number of studies, conventions and recommendations by international organisations. They highlight 18 /page

the necessity to find a good balance between the economy, the environment and the social needs. The European council outlines the importance of creating globally accepted methods for maintaining the cultural heritage. This involves developing a strategy for its sustainable development as well as encouraging cultural tourism. Cultural heritage could be perceived as a ‘soft’ value, granting cities a unique identity which subsequently makes them more attractive for the global markets (Scheffler, et al., 2009). By developing the three core principles – economic development, social equality and protection of the environment, to their full potential, cultural heritage can be guaranteed an enduring progress. What is more, the relevant authorities need to provide an optimal continuity between generations in order to ensure the transmission of heritage. The only way to preserve the culture and traditions and use them as an instrument for the local and regional development is to secure the physical integrity of both the natural and built environment and allow the contemporary society to comprehend it. Well preserved heritage predisposes the prosperity of cultural tourism. Nonetheless, it becomes equally important to endorse non-physical cultural values related to memory and tradition, which are the essential generators of urban identity. The UN Habitat explains the importance of appropriate planning for preservation, regeneration and promotion of cultural heritage, tangible and intangible, as a fundamental contributor to a city’s distinctive and unique character (UN-HABITAT, 2010). One of UNESCO’s conventions on the preservation of non-material heritage outlines the processes influencing its sustainable development. This involves developing the knowledge and skillset of a society, the experience and creativity transmitted to the next generations and the product of human activity. Collectively, these suggestions have the power to reinforce the cultural identity of communities, and also build the foundations for effective long-term strategies for preservation of the heritage. Another condition for the conservation of the urban integrity and its sustainable development is appropriate landscape management and maintenance of the relationship between cities and their surroundings (Kostof, 2014). As a part of the cultural heritage, the exploitation of land needs to portray a harmonic balance between the natural environment and the economic development. It is exceptionally beneficial for underdeveloped regions to encourage tourism. Well managed cultural landscapes, routes and objects require successful perpetuation

regulations. Ideally, cultural identities, as well as the diversity of cultures, should be well distinguished and their relationship further enhanced. What is more, it is important to popularise and highlight the cultural values, and furthermore promote their benefits to society. Occasionally, the only way to guarantee the resilience of a cultural heritage is by continuously reminding societies of their traditional norms. As a communal value, cultural heritage and its meaningfulness become an essential factor for the evolution of a society in an age of globalisation. It is a unique resource of spiritual development and certainly guarantees a forward-looking mindset. The preservation, conservation and popularisation of cultural heritage needs to be prioritised by the relevant authorities as their attitude towards their own legacy is a testimony of political wisdom. When setting an objective of creating sustainable environments, it is crucial to acknowledge the fact that new day changes are consuming the boundaries separating culture from technology. Similar is the case with the difference between tradition and modernity, which are gradually beginning to integrate. With the implementation of new technologies, such as the internet, in the sphere of cultural heritage and the actions towards its preservation, there are new tendencies for policies related to its increasing importance in any society. As an evidence of cultural integration, architecture becomes a prominent testimony of the unity between culture and technology. Particular cultures have formulated and strongly influenced architectural artifacts, meanwhile being largely exposed to technological transformations. However, it is important that culture-related policies are centralised and the responsibility for the cultural monuments and built heritage is well communicated between the relevant authorities. When discussing the relationship between technology and topology of form, a question about the conflict between the desire for ‘universalization’ and the requirement for ‘contextualisation’ arises. While the former is achieved through the application of modern concepts, innovations and forms, it remains equally important to acknowledge and respect traditional techniques. Urban identity is a dynamic concept that is in a way inseparable from the quality of the place where it originates. It reflects the local character of a large-scale environment and highlights the aspects that differentiate it from other places.

When the implementation of appropriate regulations are not wellestablished, the richness of the cultural heritage will progressively degrade until the society loses its memory and identity. However, if the community is willing to trust its cultural heritage, it can preserve its identity and make it hard to sink in a globalising conditions. The lack of an urban identity is a threat towards the balance between “permanent” and “changing” elements and people, which are the main contributors to the uniqueness and distinctiveness of a city (Lynch, 1960). Likewise, evolution and change affects communities and it becomes crucial to maintain historic urban centres as a fundamental reference for a city’s urban identity. Maurizio Carta points out the importance of finding these constant elements and adapting them to today’s contemporary conditions as it would only be possible to establish a sustainable process of modernisation based on the specifics of the peculiar cultural, historical and natural values (Colavitti, 2018). As a result, this can set grounds of a collective identity, a method for transmission through generations and catalyst for new opportunities. A contemporary society must preserve and enrich its cultural heritage for the upcoming generations, as this not only leads to a communal evolution, but also closes the gap between generations.

What is Tradition? The acceptance of cultural norms and values by new generations heavily depends on the rationale and methods of transmission. Scholars in a number of disciplines have tried to describe what exactly tradition is, how does it change over time and how does it influence the behaviour and decisions of the communities that it belongs to. While it seems difficult to simply explain the essence of the term, the one generally accepted definition is a process which turns into a norm when enough members of a particular society adopt it (AlSayyad, 2014). Tradition could be perceived as a historical product which was further transmitted through time. However, whilst history and tradition gain similar prestige amongst most societies, history receives authority as an accumulator of knowledge, whereas tradition’s authority is established over the course of many generations. In the current age of globalisation, the notion of tradition no longer illustrates a time and place-based concept that is inheriting its authority from the past and belongs to particular groups of people. It would be more suitable to explain tradition as a fluid process which spreads beyond the boundaries of its origins and affects previously unaffected communities.

Paul Oliver explains that tradition, described by transmission, cannot be separated from the physical objects that embody it and is carried through generations (Oliver, 2003). He argues, however, that the ‘traditional’ value of the object is not entirely a result of the continuous transmission, its endurance as a material or a product, and on the legacy of techniques that it has received. It is more likely that its consistent notional ‘representation’ and re-articulation have more influence than its tangible presence. This is particularly applicable when describing the process of tradition in relation to the built environment. In many societies culture is translated into a physical context, eventually establishing their identity through architecture (Alhasani, 1996). Thus, traditional dwellings and settlements become the built expressions of peculiar cultural heritage. In most cases these have been created by ordinary people with no professional knowledge, yet these environments accommodate the majority of the world’s population even today. However, in order to qualify a building as traditional, scholars outline two conditions: its current existence to be the outcome of a successful transmission through generations and that it originates from a cultural background which involves common people. Therefore, traditional built environments can be concluded as the buildings and spaces which are a product of pragmatism and local forms and sustain the everyday activities of their ordinary inhabitants. The study of traditional dwellings during the 1980s defined the house form as a product of place-based culture, influenced by the specific contextual conditions in social, structural and climatic aspects. The settlements that sited them have demonstrated building practices with emphasized symbolic role of the ethnic and local aesthetics. In addition to that, the design of houses was further modified by the influence of other cultural aspects like myth and religion. Religion in particular has demonstrated the authority to influence or even determine the form, plan, spatial organisation and orientation of a dwelling. Tradition as a process that can have sufficient impact on the evolution of the build environment, should be investigated as a multiperspective concept. What is more, it should not be interpreted simply as a static legacy of the past, but rather as a “project for the dynamic reinterpretation of the past in the service of the present”. Tradition can become a constraint, creating ‘spaces’ that are restricted by rigorously defined cultural norms. This is evident when acknowledging the materiality of today’s traditional settlements, which, initially a result of 20 /page

constraint, nowadays appear attractive in their simplicity. People’s nostalgia for tradition can often be explained by our post-modern anxiety for a ‘simpler’ time. Tradition’s transmission can be verbal and non-verbal, which dictates the need for places of interaction, whilst stressing on the importance of preserving objects of traditional value. It has become common in many parts of the Third World for native people, especially the ones who have the choice, to neglect traditional forms. This is usually driven by the universalization of the world and the superimposition of modern practices. However, this often portrays established cultural norms and traditional ways as inferior, gradually sinking their influence. Henry Glassie has concluded that: “True vernacular tradition is based upon participation, engagement, and egalitarian political ethic…. But much of the connection to these forces has been lost in modern society, and thus has led to ignorance, weakening of culture, and a decline in personal empowerment.” Nevertheless, every product of architecture is fundamentally the embodiment of cultural norms which pre-exist individual buildings (Glassie, 1990). What is more, social order cannot be disjoined from the economic aspirations and ideas of the sacred. Therefore, dwellings can only be understood in their economic, political, and religious contexts, outside of their reality as cultural creations.

Problems related to culture and tradition Many African countries have sustained the development of vibrant indigenous communities. Foreign historical influences and religion have further shaped the fabric of the settlements that accommodate them. The product of this palette of influences is unique built environments that encapsulate the cultural norms of unique societies. However, in the present times of socio-economic and demographic changes it becomes increasingly difficult to preserve buildings with cultural importance. While the significance of the embodied historical and technical value suffers abuse and neglect, their maintenance and restoration often requires financial resources beyond the capabilities of their owners or inhabitants. What is more, in towns with high demand for housing stock, the state of occupancy of buildings makes any repair work even more challenging. Ethiopia, just like others, is a subject to many economic, political, cultural and social problems which all affect the effectiveness of heritage preservation. There are people who simply perceive valuable buildings as facilities and transform their initial architectural and decorative character. Others do not acknowledge the symbolic significance of spaces and thus approach their function according to their individual spatial requirements (Alansari, 2018). As a result of this continuous disregard, many traditional buildings end up in poor or culturally irrelevant condition, which subsequently disconnects

them from the society. However, dwellings have the potential to educate communities about the environment they live in. Their traditional value forms through their evolution, which eventually creates an artifact. Dwellings are the product of communal efforts and a reflection of communal aspirations and ideology. Only by acknowledging the influence of tradition on the built environment, we can have the awareness required to create a sustainable, time-relevant ‘traditional’ environment. What is more, postmodernity should not be perceived as a threat to the coherence and authenticity of tradition because this would restrict the potential development of contemporary art forms, influenced by and incorporating the traditions of other societies.

fig. 6: View of Harar from Coffe stream, engraving from First footsteps in East Africa by Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), 1856. Africa, 19th century. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale De France

III. Harar Jugol Protecting the heritage of Harar receives a significant role in the overall quest for preserving and promoting Harari culture. The urban community is vulnerable to economic, political and cultural transformations and as a result securing its uniqueness and traditions, including language, history, literature, the social structure and norms, would mean resisting their pressures. The region itself is a miniature island surrounded by a huge Oromo area and owes its independence to its specific cultural characteristics. For the local inhabitants the successful preservation of their peculiarities would ensure their cultural continuity and survival. This highlights the magnitude of Jugol’s heritage and is a testimony that the old town remains the heart of this culture. After its Italian occupation, the town has been a subject to a few development plans, but the first one to define its property as a special entity was drawn up in 1998. It outlines the main aspects expressing the historical and cultural importance of the property: •The ramparts and the gates which connect Jugol to its immediate environment •All the mosques and the tombs •The dwelling areas built of clay and stone, with the craftwork they include •The special morphology of the narrow streets which is evidence of the medieval character of the town. “One of the most remarkable things about the Islamic World is that there are still many urban societies functioning essentially as they were twelve hundred years ago. It would be hard to duplicate this phenomenon anywhere in Europe - nor in many other parts of the world” (Lewcock, 1984)

Historic Evolution Harar Jugol was founded in the 14th century, however, according to the Nomination document, 2004, the town has attracted interest since the middle of 10th century. The historic city is the only urban heritage site in Ethiopia and fulfils four of the eight criteria for outstanding universal value (UNESCO World Heritage, 2006). Stories suggest that 44 Muslim people came to the Harar region from South Arabia in order to convert local people into Islam, with one of them being Sheikh Abadir who is still considered as the founder of the city. From the late 16th century the city developed as an important trade centre, with Ethiopian 22 /page

commercial activity moving through the port of Zeila, Somalia. As a result, in combination with its affiliations and teaching of Islam, the town established unique traditions and furthermore – original building types and urban layout, specific to the particular context and character of Harar. Since its foundation, Harar was ruled by four dynasties, sharing its leadership with other ethnic groups like the Argoba, Somali and Afar (Ahmed, 2015). The city was then a part of the Aussa sultanate and became an independent city-state in 1647 which lasted until Egyptian occupation in 1875. Then in 1887, in one of the most prominent battles for Harar, the Battle of Chelenqo, the city was conquered by the Christian Emperor Menelik II and became an integral part of the Ethiopian Empire. At this point, Indian merchants, Christian and Oromo people settled within the city and started changing its demographics. The city was then occupied by the Italians, who built a new town in the eastern outskirts of Harar in order to accommodate the increasing population within the wall. These contemporary activities were done in respect and according to the traditional aspects of the city and got integrated within the historical fabric. The last centuries of its existence, however, Harar spent as an isolated Muslim urban settlement, sitting within a predominantly Christian Ethiopian Empire. The only possible way to prosperity was for Harar to develop an autonomous culture based upon commercial trade and strong religious practices (see fig.8). Its isolation within a Christian context is a testimony of the care that Harari people take in order to maintain their culture. It was certain that their identity in Ethiopia was fundamentally dependent on preserving their Muslim traditional values and artifacts. Nonetheless, the uniqueness of the Harari culture, together with their religious situation, has put them in a position of constant oppression of surrounding tribes, national and international affairs (Idris, 2019). In the past, Harari people would always carry a spear and a shield even when visiting their own agricultural land because of pagan or tribal attacks. On the other hand, the government, dominated by Christian forces, decided that if they manage to dislocate Hararis from the area - that would seize the propagation of Islam. At the same time, Harar was considered one of the initiators of modernity in Ethiopia. Haile Selassie, who was originally born in the Harari region, was aware of this and tried to implement it in the rest of Ethiopia. In order to be able to register the country in international communities and the League of Nations, Haile drafted the first Ethiopian constitution, with many points adopted from the Japanese constitution. All the regulations at the time were designed in favour of the Orthodox

Church, which resulted in annihilation for any different community. In its objective of defeating Islam, the Ethiopian government tried to convert many Hararis, disregarded their heritage and tried to purposely weaken their culture. One of the evidences for this is the encouragement and creation of liquor stores in the emirate’s houses in order to disappoint the community. This would accumulate negative activity like filth and prostitution and would displace the citizens of the town. Nevertheless, Harar successfully managed to endure centuries of pressure and meanwhile develop itself as a civilisation. In his book from 150 years ago, Richard Burton outlined that Harari people were the only settled community in the East of Africa, a mighty race that built their houses from stone, with an autonomous government, rule and language (Burton, 2011). The city was the first in Sub-Saharan Africa to use tap water, after an Indian traveller brought pipes from Bombay (‘bomba’ pipes) and through the forces of gravity brought water within the city walls. This was the first time water would not be fetched from the river, but sold for money. In a way, Harar was the gateway of civilisation for Ethiopia – this is where telecommunication and postal services to Addis Ababa started. With Harar’s trade relations going as far as China, India, Morocco, Turkey and Indonesia, the city was the first to implement a coin system. What is more, services like customs, checkpoints, archives, certificates about land ownership and birth certificates all originated from Harar (Idris, 2019).

fig. 8: Ramadan prayer

fig. 7: Streetscape

fig. 9: Urban division

fig. 10: Dwelling typologies 24 /page

fig. 11: Main avenue

Socio-Economic and Urban Structure Harar has an independent regional state, which is the smallest in terms of population and area size amongst the other 8 in Ethiopia. Its population is was estimated to be around 226,000 in 2014, accounting for only 0.25% of the country population, with more than half living in the city (Central Statistical Agency, 2013). Jugol’s population is estimated around 32,000 in 2015, which is nearly 7000 more than it was in 2007, regardless of the already high density of the historic town. Harar’s inhabitants come from a vibrant diversity of cultural, religious and even linguistic communities: Harari, Oromo, Somali, Amhara and others, from which the Harari’s constitute about 44.4%. Harari’s social life is organised around two systems for administrative division – a religious one, with the afochas, and an institutional one, with the kebeles. The historic centre of the city is organised according to the former five city gates (see fig.9). The traditional associations, called afocha, are essentially neighbourhood communities responsible for the daily life, particularly ceremonies like weddings and funerals. The system maintains the social cohesion amongst the citizens thought solidarity and respect for the rules of life in society and within the region. The kebele, on the other hand, is an administrative urban unit which defines the current major neighborhoods. Its acts as a link between the government and the inhabitants and ensures the access to healthcare, construction approvals and gives legal counsel.

fig. 12: Main avenue 26 /page

For many decades, Harar has had the reputation of the trade and commercial hub of Ethiopia. The historical city is surrounded by a continuous wall, initially penetrated by five gates (see fig.15). A sixth, main gate was built during the Italian occupation, which corresponded to a newly planned main avenue connecting the east and the west sides of Jugol (see fig.12). The town has a typical Islamic urban structure with a central public area. This central core was historically occupied by the municipal hall, a hospital, a school, a market and the Great Mosque, which, after Harar become a part of the Ethiopian Christian Empire, was converted into a church. The religious influence on the town is evident in the presence of 82 mosques and 103 shrines, all of them scattered within the urban fabric for daily use (see fig.14). The majority of the commercial activities are clustered along the main road and the major market places of the city (see fig.13). The rest of the urban fabric is predominantly residential, with the state of it being pretty good, especially when compared to Arab cities in the Islamic world (Okazaki, 2014). Nearly 85% of the houses are well kept and maintained, whilst there are very few modern transformations have changed the historical character of the streets.

fig. 13: Argoba gate market

fig. 15: Badro Bari gate

fig. 14: Mosque

Buffer Zone and Immediate Surroundings Harar’s unique cultural and urban evolution was possible due to the close relationship the town developed with its immediate surroundings. Its citizens established an organisation of concentric rings covering a vast agricultural area, which functioned as a coherent system despite of its independence from the urban realm. Within the walls, the city was initially divided into five areas corresponding to the five gates. Each of the gates was located near a spring which was the point of origin of an elaborate irrigation system. These areas provided Jugol’s inhabitants with means for local practices like water collection, personal hygiene, washing clothes and market gardening. What is more, each gate was associated with an area for decomposing organic waste, which was then used as natural fertilizer. The interaction of the city is even more evident from its relationship with the animal world. The collection of waste is mainly performed by donkeys, but more importantly there is a symbolic practice based on the symbiosis with hyenas. These wild predators have built up a rare link with the city, entering the streets of Jugol at night through manmade hyena holes in the wall and ‘cleansing’ the particular sewer-lanes from the waste (see fig.18a-b). The relationship of the city with its environment illustrates a strong, peculiar urban ecosystem which reflects the exceptional occupation of the territory (see fig.17). This system gradually adopted a comprehensive set of culturally-specific representations and social codes that can still be identified in the architecture, urban form and social routines.

fig. 16: Buffer Zone 28 /page

The extraordinary utilisation of the natural environment was acknowledged by the authorities. As a result, UNESCO has defined a “buffer zone” – a natural ‘outer suburb’, which is a subject to very little construction and will serve as a protection for the whole of the registered property (see fig.). The preservation of the surrounding areas will enable the enhancement of the integrity of the urban landscape (UNESCO World Heritage, 2006). “Since the historic town is part of the whole city, conservation should not be restricted only to the Old Town. Rather, it should consider the boundaries, and maintain a relationship and unity between the Old Town and the surrounding. The conservation of the Old City depends very much on the future of other parts of the city. Any radical change will inevitably affect either side”. Mr. Jara Haile Mariam General Manager, Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage of Ethiopia

fig. 17: Harar’s eastern surroundings

fig. 18a: Hyena gate

fig. 18b: Hyenas

Traditional Harari house The traditional Harari house is the most remarkable expression of the indigenous local culture (see fig.22a-d). It stands out with a unique architectural form, which can be related to coastal Arab architecture, yet portrays a distinctive domestic lay out which reflects the specific lifestyle of the Harari community. The style of the house is unprecedented in the country and conceals a wonderful interior (see fig.21). An evidence of its importance for Harari people is the fact that they refer to the beauty of the house when they speak of “Harari culture”. It is called ‘ge gar’, meaning “townhouse”, and its compound - ‘ge abad’, which consists of several housing units with typical floor plans and elevations, regardless of the period when the house was built (see fig.19). Traditionally, the house accommodated the members of one family, however, after the government implemented a new regime, which expropriated a large number of properties, families from various social groups and origins started sharing the compounds (see fig.20).

fig. 20: Shared house compound

fig. 21: Traditional Harari ‘Gidir Gar’ 30 /page

fig. 19: House compound

fig. 22a: Streetscape

fig. 22b: Streetscape

fig. 22c: Streetscape

fig. 22d: Streetscape

The ge gar is the principal rectangular unit within the ge abad, and incorporates three rooms on the ground floor (gidir gar, kirtat and dera) and one on the upper floor (quti qala) (see fig.25). All service areas, sanitary facilities and the kitchen are located in the courtyard, usually with no direct link to the main house. It is interesting to note that the majority of the secondary rooms within the ge abad have no static furniture or physical fixtures which would condition a specific purpose to a space and therefore allows a good level of flexibility. The courtyard of the compound is the main gathering space, with a solid wall and a gate acting as a threshold from the street (see fig.28). It is a multipurpose space that accommodates a range of manual and domestic activities and acts as a distribution area. This domestic organisation becomes a gradual transition between the public realms of the house, the semi-public character of the courtyard and the intimacy and privacy of the ge gar (see fig.24).

fig. 24: Case Study: Rowda Waber house 32 /page

fig. 23: Rowda Waber house

fig. 25: Compound plan

fig. 26: Ge Gar

fig. 27: Miniature courtyard

fig. 28: Threshold

fig. 29: Compound within a compound

fig. 30: Mixed house courtyard

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fig. 31: Colour coding

fig. 33: Streetscape

fig. 32: The gate

The ge gar is comprised of the main reception room of the house- the gidir gar, “large house”, two small rooms – the kirtat and the dera, and an upstairs space, the dera (see fig.26). The entrance to the house is through a large wooden door, whose carved decoration symbolises the social standing of the residents (see fig.27). The gidir gar is like a living room with no windows and light only coming through the main door. The majority of it is occupied by raised platforms – the nadabas, which serve as seating (see fig.34a). They also have a symbolical, hierarchical structure, which applies to both visitors and the members of the family. Each of them has its own name and together with the floor are painted in red – in memory of the people lost in the Battle of Chelenqo (see fig.34b). Another traditional element of the house are the niches – hollows in the walls. These are usually eleven, with five of them placed above the large nadaba and facing the entrance door. Each of them has a particular purpose and usually carries the name of the seat it overhangs. The niches, the walls and the shelves inside the gidir gar are all used as an exhibition of the personal belongings of the family. These heirlooms create a distinctive decoration in every house and contribute to its originality and subsequently, to the sense of identity of its inhabitants (see fig.34d).

fig. 34d: House interior

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fig. 34a: House interior

fig. 34b: House interior

fig. 34c: House interior

The Indian House Another housing type which has become a part of the Harari cultural heritage is the Indian house. Its architectural style and ornamental qualities were introduced in the town by Indian merchants who came after Harar’s conquest. These houses have been built in the highest point of the town and have illustrated a new urban landscape. The houses consist of a simple rectangular plan and have two stories, with the upper one being characterised by a wooden veranda overlooking the street or the courtyard (see fig.35). Their pitched roofs with dormer windows dominate the skyline of Harar. The Indian house can be described as an extroverted type in contrast to the traditional Harari house which is very enclosed and introverted. Two of the most spectacular examples of Indian houses are the Arthur Rimbaud house (see fig.38), built in the beginning of the 20th century, and the Ras Tafari Makonnen’s house (see fig.39), built during the 19th century. The former has been renovated by the local authorities and with the support of the French cultural services and has been turned into a cultural centre and a library. The latter used to be a home to the future king Haïle Sélassié, the most prominent figure in Ethiopia’s history. The house was then used as accommodation for impoverished people, but has now been repurposed into a museum.

fig. 35: Indian house plan

fig. 36: Case study: Ras Tafari Makonnen’s Indian house 38 /page

fig. 37: Mixed house

The Mixed House The last distinctive housing type is the mixed type, which portrays a symbiosis between the traditional Harari house and the Indian house. It uses the traditional house as a base and extends itself above it (see fig.37). The additional first or second floor is usually accessed through a wooden external stair and a balcony which faces the courtyard or the street. This housing type is a good solution to the increasing density within Jugol as it allows enlarging and extending the house without transforming its traditional character. This means that the construction process involves building a new house or rooms with similar to the Indian house forms that is independent from the ‘base’ house. This then becomes a ‘double’ house and leaves the symbolic elements of the traditional house unharmed.

fig. 38: Rimbaud’s house

fig. 39: Ras Tafari’s house

IV. Findings

fig. 40: Traditional meal

Social structure and demographic changes Harari people have managed to endure centuries of various pressures because of their cultural identity and traditional norms that have been carried through the generations. This was evident during my visit to the town. The participants in my study who were from Harari origin repeatedly emphasized on the prosperity of their community as well as the tremendous value of their cultural heritage. The majority of them were students at an age between 21 and 25, all of them currently living within ramparts of Jugol, independently from their families (see fig.43). Following the traditional residential organisation, young men would rent and share a room – tit gar, meaning “small house”, however it would usually not be within the family compound. When time for dining comes, especially during the Ramadan period when dinner is the most anticipated meal, people would gather and eat collectively, switching between different hosts on a daily basis (see fig.40). This is a testimony of the existing communal spirit, allowing people to participate in the activities regardless of their social and economic status. The majority of Harar’s population remains Muslim despite of the large number of people who have recently moved to live in the town. The group of participants which I spent most of my time with was also composed of people with various ethnic background, however, as they had all grown up in the town and shared the same educational institutions, they had developed a relationship between themselves which neglects their cultural differences and unites them. On the other hand, it has become evident that the Harari population have a generally higher economic status than the new residents coming from a rural context. Harari’s take pride in their educational accomplishments and point out that their town was the originator of civilisation for Ethiopia and they are still some of the highest performing students on a national level. Nevertheless, they have raised concerns that while there is high level of immigration towards Harar from other ethnic groups, Harari’s population within the city is reducing. There are large Harari communities which have emigrated to Canada, Australia and the US, which as a result have become the hosts of the biggest traditional Harari festival for every 4 out of a 5 year cycle. What is more, the birth rate of Harari people has reduced to almost 1.3 which is an apparent threat to the continuity of Harar’s legacy (Idris, 2019).

40 /page

fig. 43: Phenomenology

fig. 41: Catholic school

fig. 42: SOS Hermann Gmeiner School Harar

Transformation of the Immediate Surroundings One of the most obvious indications of the unsuccessful implementation of UNESCO’s inscribed buffer zone is the transformation of the landscape on the eastern side of Jugol (see fig.45). The responsible authorities have recognised the emerging need for new housing stock because of Harar’s increasing population and as a result have proposed an alteration of the initial buffer zone which should accommodate a good balance between dwellings and greenery (see fig.44a). The new plan distributes the buffer zone into sections which have clearly not been respected. The formerly agricultural land has undergone a major construction development, presenting a scene of unfinished, yet numerous large dwellings. A lot of these houses have been built without a legal permission and the longer it takes to demolish them, the more developed and resilient they become. Nevertheless, the government has decided to build a stadium which one hand does not reflect the scale of the town, nor its communal needs, and on the other hand has eradicated the natural environment. What is more, the facility has been proposed as a venue for the 2016 Harari festival, yet it has been left unfinished with no intentions of completion in the near future.

fig. 45: Obstructed landscape

42 /page

The second testimony of the disregarded urban relationship with the landscape is the construction of a beer factory within the new town which disposes its waste into the river that runs south of Jugol. This not only is in conflict with the Islamic principles of the Harar, but has completely disconnected the river from the community and therefore destroyed their traditional cohesion (see fig.44b). Harar’s relationship to water has been partially explained by a legend which says that water should not enter the town or that would lead to its downfall. Until the 20th century only water for eating and drinking purposes was allowed within the ramparts which essentially makes the water sources on the periphery of the town an integral part of the Harari life. Scholars describe the influence that such myths have on the creation and endurance of traditional practices, which subsequently have the power to dictate behaviours, customs and actions (AlSayyad, 2014). The use of myth in architecture is particularly applicable to sacred religious places like Harar and has become one of the formulating aspects to the historical development of the traditional Harari house. Meanwhile, myths transmit a particular ethos, establish moral principles and determine the parameters of accepter behaviour, defining the boundaries of religion, culture and social practises.

fig. 44a: Revised buffer zone

fig. 44b: River bed

Townscape The old town of Harar presents an urban fabric that has endured the passage of time and continues to resist the pressures of the modernising world to a good extent. Its structure remains nearly the same as it originated, with minor changes being implemented during the Italian occupation, which according to the local community were in respect with the traditional forms and principles of the town and successfully enhanced its infrastructure. The new gate and avenue have turned into the main gateway to the historic town and certainly the busiest area in the town (see fig.47). The street remains lively throughout the entire day, especially during the Ramadan period when human activity increases with the setting of the sun. Harari people have been famous with the quality of their handcrafts, which is well expressed in the numerous vibrant tailoring shops along the street (see fig.46). Nevertheless, the main streets within the city are accommodating an increasing number of homeless people which creates an unattractive image of the city and jeopardises the opportunities for promoting tourism (see fig.49). What is more, tourists can often feel intimidated by the significant amount of beggars and approaching children. The density within the ramparts has been increasing despite the lack of necessary infrastructure, moreover it has come to my attention that there is ongoing construction of civic buildings. These are being built with reinforced concrete structures which disregards the traditional construction techniques and creates an impression of neglect in the core of the town. Kebele 5, the area around the Badro Bari gate, has been identified as the only one that requires densification as it was historically inhabited by groups of people from diverse backgrounds, usually of lower economic standard, and it is clear that many of the free sites have been utilised. However, there is still an abundance of temporary dwellings in the form of ‘barracks’ which do not fit in the urban landscape (see fig.48). The area was recognised to require an educational facility and such has been built, however it is another example of a building that does not match the peculiar architecture forms of the town (see fig.50).

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fig. 46: Tailoring shop

fig. 47: Harari gate

fig. 48: Barracks

fig. 49: Homeless person chewing khat

fig. 50: New school

One of the impressive aspects of the town is its organic street pattern, with narrow passages and surprising moments which encourage occasional human interactions and therefore strengthen the communal spirit of the town (see fig.51). Its inhabitants have established certain etiquettes based on the nature of their built environment. For example, when crossing particular narrow streets, one must touch shoulders with any by passers as a sign of respect (see fig.52). Applying such seemingly minor codes has major implications on the integrity of the urban society. Nevertheless, many of these tiny streets have turned into micro litter sites, covered in filth and often used as toilets (see fig.56). Furthermore, the lack of proper drainage or sewage systems has been ‘resolved’ by running a ‘waste pipe’ off from the dwellings to the street which discards liquid waste but seriously contaminates the urban environment (see fig.55). Some of the streets have been paved and equipped with in-built gutters which assist the discharge and allows rainwater to wash the dirt off. However, there is still an abundance of unpaved streets where different kinds of pollutants successfully infiltrate the ground (see fig.53). All of this ruins the beauty of the Harari streetscape and even more - generates a number of illnesses and health issues. At the same time this problematic waste management has direct implications on the housing, economic and urban development of the town.

fig. 52: Exhaustion 46 /page

fig. 51: Crossroad

fig. 53: Uncovered

fig. 54: Drainage

fig. 55: Sewage

fig. 56: Filth

The Houses of Harar The principles of Muslim culture are based on a universal understanding of daily behaviour through faith and belief, and this has been integrated into the built environment of the place. Nevertheless, the diverse cultural practices and distinct regional habitat conditions have allowed settlements like Harar to express its regional specifics in a colourful display. Wandering around the streets of the town is a spectacular experience which continuously surprises the visitor with the vibrant palettes and decorations of the traditional houses (see fig.57). Keeping the colours fresh has become a social norm – Harari’s paint their houses twice a year, at six month intervals (see fig.58). Likewise, the external state of the houses is an indicator of the economic situation of its inhabitants (see fig.59). There are approximately two thousand registered traditional houses (family unit block), more than half of which are well-preserved. A quarter of the houses are in fair conditions, meaning that they have undergone minor transformations and require small repairs in order to restore them. Only 331 houses are in poor condition (Bekri, 2019). These houses suffer from water percolation: from the roof leaks and from the water rising in the masonry walls partly due to the fact that many streets are not yet paved and that water infiltrates in the ground and badly affects the foundations. The participants explained in a funny manner that often following a heavy rain one can wave to the multiple other people carrying repair works to their roofs. It is clear that a better water control system throughout the city would greatly benefit the physical state of the houses. Therefore, most houses need regular maintenance and some even need urgent restoration interventions. This however is often the reason why residents would look for cheaper or more effective alternative maintenance solutions which often leads to the use of non-traditional materials (see fig.61). The majority of houses within Jugol are state owned and rented out to residents for a symbolic price, with maintenance supposedly being partially covered by the conservation authorities. However, the participants have outlined that the material provisions they have received are certainly insufficient and therefore the responsibility for managing their properties becomes entirely theirs. The inclusion of new materials is evident even before entering the premises of the house (see fig.60). It has increasingly become more common to replace the traditional timber gates to the courtyard with new, sturdier steel doors for improved security. Furthermore, many traditional walls have been ‘upgraded’ with an additional steel fence on top, which 48 /page

contradicts with the peaceful image of the town (see fig.79). Yet, such security concerns are reasonable as the town has experienced serious ethnic conflicts during the autumn of 2018, when Oromo groups repeatedly attempted to take over Harar, leaving a significant amount of damaged property and even more, throwing Harari people out of their homes and illegally adopting their houses (William Davison, 2019). The participants have also outlined the clear lack of space within Jugol. It becomes more complicated to accommodate both the growing size of the families and the new coming residents of the town. As a result, small rooms (tit gar) are occupied by multiple people who share a single ‘nadaba’ type of platform. This increasing density has often led to the construction of informal extensions, which usually have neglected the traditional material (hashi stone) and instead are using cheaper concrete blocks (see fig.70). On the other hand, there are still a number of unoccupied sites, with some of them currently undergoing construction where the use of traditional techniques is recognisable (see fig.69). Harari people have emphasised on successfully transmitting their methods to new generations. They used the Ramadan period as an opportunity to teach children various skills, which lead to self-discipline and independence. One of these was for boys to build their own tiny houses in their family compounds, which were then used to celebrate the Ramadan evening with their friends (Abubaker, 2016).

fig. 57: Palettes

fig. 58: Freshening up

fig. 59: Contrasting economic status

fig. 60: Improvisations

fig. 61: Use of contemporary materials

On the other hand, more and more people from different ethnic background move into traditional Harari houses. These people usually do not share the same sentiment as Harari’s, and therefore adjust to form of the house according to their needs and demands. This is the case with one of the participants in my study, who is has recently moved into a Harari house with his wife and where I spent a significant amount of time during my stay in the town (see fig.63). He explains that the roof of the house was damaged and had to be rebuilt at his own expense, with only the main beam being provided by the state (see fig.64). At the same time, his house is one of the obvious examples of altered houses, where Harari tradition was perceived as a constraint. For example, the cupboard which traditionally faces the gidir gar has been reversed and is now facing the adjacent room, the bedroom. Following this subjective ‘practical’ approach, the family has infilled the niches and reduced the number of the nadabas from five to one continuous platform (see fig.43). The house has also been equipped with elements of technology like a fridge, which the original house has not taken into consideration. This highlights clash of technology with the traditional form of the house and requires competent attention. Modernisation, however, has evidently had a significant influence on other houses, especially the ones that are owned by richer families. Often the economic standard of people in places with weak political authority ‘allows’ them to neglect certain regulations and even cultural norms and cautiously take controversial actions. The owner of such precedent explained to me that she decided to continue the construction of her house regardless of its clear interference with the accepted scale, materiality and form of building. What is more, the owner has been warned multiple times and even got arrested, yet she has completed her project bearing no legal consequences. The house itself portrays three stories, with external balconies and steel balustrades, and a number of contemporary building elements which do not fit the image of Harar (see fig.71). What is more, if compared to the rest of the compounds, it has the capacity to accommodate multiple families, however is only occupied by a single one. The interior of the house, on the other hand, presents a fascinating implementation of the traditional elements, expressed through modern finishes and materials (see fig.76). The ground floor plan has respected the original space organisation, yet it has been extended and now provides multiplied number of spaces with similar functions (see fig.74). The house is an excellent case study, which points the potential direction of Harar’s evolution whilst demonstrating the 50 /page

arising problems from neglecting the approved urban development plan. While this house is a testimony of the appropriateness of the mixed housing type which creates additional space, the majority of the Indian houses throughout the town are portraying a picture of deterioration (see fig.62). Their astonishing forms have now become subject to destruction because of their high maintenance cost. The only wellpreserved Indian houses are the Ras Tafari Makonnen and Arthur Rimbaud’s houses which have now been turned into cultural centres. They contribution to the mixed house type, however, has generally been well preserved and appreciated by families willing to expand their properties in a traditional manner.

fig. 62: Deterioration

fig. 63: Coffee preparation

fig. 65: Deterioration

fig. 64: Roof structure

fig. 66: Integrating nature 52 /page

fig. 67: Natural resources

fig. 68: Limestone - hashi stone combination

fig. 70: Use of inappropriate materials

fig. 69: Traditional construction technique

fig. 71: Scale

fig. 72: Juxtaposition

fig. 74: Khat chewing space

fig. 73: Spear holders 54 /page

fig. 75: Contemporary ‘dera’

fig. 76:Contemporary ‘gidir gar’

V. Discussion Harari people, as a separate ethnic group, have developed a peculiar culture which reflects the conditions of the inhabited location in addition to the traditional norms of its community. However, their resilience is seriously threatened by the combination of low birth rate, emigration and withering traditions. Multi-ethnic marriages are beneficial for creating unity between different communities, yet this usually results in Harari culture sinking into other societies and progressively losing its identity. At the same time, being a minority in a nation as populous as Ethiopia gives Harari people very limited authority, disallowing them to have influence on political decisions and usually leaving them impotent during times of conflict. On the other hand, Harar strives to ensure a good continuity of its traditions, as well as to offer good economic opportunities for its citizens. The ambitions of becoming a middle-income country are justified by the good provision of educational facilities, which not only present excellent enrolment rates but also impressive academic performance (SOS Children’s Village Ethiopia, 2017). At the same time, the strong Islamic culture, together with the well-established traditional norms, are continuously strengthened by the magnitude, consistency and efforts put into celebrating them. The festivals in the town have always generated a lot of excitement and brought everyone together, enhancing the communal spirit. The administrative division which is based on communal participation and cooperation are just another testimony of the consolidating relationship between people. The streets of Harar have preserved their authentic character, with very few obstructions defiling the colourful exhibition of the houses. The city gates have remained accumulators of commercial activity which relates the town back to its trade origins (see fig.). The construction of new civic buildings with inappropriate materials, however, is a worrying indicator of the flawed urban development plans. Harar has experienced an age of Italian influence that should be referred to as an informative case study (see fig.). Michael Sorkin explains the importance of sustaining the various traditional forms and representations when adopting new building types as the only way of moving forward towards a modern era whilst preserving the sense of identity (AlSayyad, 2014):

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“…while countries must follow their particular paths, free from the repressive colonizing of the West, utter sequestration is naïve given the global realities of an even more common commercial and technological culture… For building, the symbolic core of this problem lies in the relationship of modernization and Modernism. In its typologies, architecture arises from the logic of precedent: traditional societies have no ready, formulated solutions to the problems of airports, steel mills, office towers. Modernism, likewise, has no precedent way with a mosque or a neighbourhood.” In a similar manner, the challenge of finding an authentic and distinctive urban identity requires understanding of both the specific built environment and the wider region of the town. Its identity is a mixture of the physical heritage, local culture and geographical context, as well as a combination of the aspirations and experiences of the citizens and visitors (Academy of Urbanism, 2011). Therefore, acknowledging the value of Harar’s immediate surroundings and conserving their cohesion becomes a fundamental responsibility, which has obviously been either misunderstood or neglected by the relevant authorities. What is more, the scale and declared cost of the unfinished stadium, which occupies the centre of the buffer area, reveals questionable political affairs and incompetent interpretation of the town’s needs. A proof of good intentions would mean that the state immediately end the construction of unauthorised properties within the buffer zone and potentially begin demolition of already existing ones.

fig. 77: Market

fig. 78: The Italian meat market

The ambiguity of the state’s actions and ambitions are also reflected on the management of the properties within Jugol. The lack of maintenance support and the deficient control over the alteration of the built heritage are a testimony of the poor implementation of the conservation administration (see fig.80). Furthermore, the limited awareness and respect of its legislation among the community makes the traditional historic houses a subject to continuous modification. In case the income of owners increases and their lifestyle changes, they immediately attempt to reflect this in their homes, replacing traditional elements with contemporary ones and isolating their compounds in order to keep privacy and economic status (see fig.79). This outlines the need to develop a consistent conservation criteria which should be established through appropriate community engagement. Nevertheless, the generally good condition of the housing stock has been achieved by virtue of the communal devotion. The pride that Harari people take in their properties is impressive and should be taken advantage of when preparing future conservation plans and regulations. Although often modified, it is still particularly notable how traditional elements which once reflected the lifestyle of Harari people, but are no longer necessarily relevant, have been incorporated into the ‘updated’ form of the house (see fig.73). This is another evidence that the Harari house is an artifact, which presents symbolism that is adopted in relation to the culture in which it is applied. The higher the level of the abstraction, the further the culture is removed from its context (Glassie, 1990). Therefore, the successful integration of modernity and technology becomes a matter of how to rather than what to implement in a given context. Furthermore, despite of the repeated alterations to the physical form of the houses, their status can be maintained as traditional as long as it continues to represent tradition (AlSayyad, 2014). On the other hand, during such times of globalisation it is important to mention that the built environment may no longer always reflect the cultures and traditions of those who inhabit it. The increasing multi-ethnic population of Harar asks for a ‘remapping’ of the current ‘intellectual cartographies’. The current legacy of political borders and thus identities and traditions can explain to a certain extent the arising tension between the concerned ethnic groups, often resulting in exclusion, segregation and conflicts.

fig. 79: Safety wall 58 /page

fig. 80: Decaying mixed house

Conclusions This research paper aimed to examine the development of Harar and its immediate surroundings in comparison to its economic, demographic and physical state since its listing as a UNESCO world heritage site. The thesis outlines the importance of preserving cultural identity, and particularly urban identity as a medium against homogenising communities and the depreciation of their peculiar architecture. The necessary set of data was obtained through qualitative research during a two week fieldwork carried out in the historic urban centre and interpreted according to the subjective impression of the author. The results have made it clear that Harari people sustain and take pride of their build environment as it embodies the symbolism of their cultural norms and values. Their modernising lifestyle has been gradually transforming the initial form of their dwellings, demonstrating the evolution of both the society and tradition. However, some of the performed alterations have neglected the long-established construction techniques and decorations. This, in addition to the negligent management of the surrounding landscape, is incongruous with the integrity of the town. While these challenges have been acknowledged in the new management and development plans, the authorities have clearly been struggling to implement strict conservation practices as any changes may become the catalyst for ethnic conflicts. The study aimed to compare the evolution of the historic town in comparison to the recommendations outlined by UNESCO’s report in the period from its listing as a world heritage site. This allowed the researcher to identify both the solved and remaining issues threatening Harar’s urban identity. The undertaken phenomenological approach has shown that while the value of the protected heritage is well recognised by majority of the community, its maintenance heavily depends on state support. Meanwhile, interviews with conservation advocates have described that there is a lack of coordination, as well as unclear division of responsibilities between the relevant authorities. Furthermore, typological analysis affirmed the outstanding merit and uniqueness of the traditional Harari house. The paper clearly illustrates the significant role of the dwelling in Harari life, but also gives insight on magnitude of challenges that their physical form is facing. This has subsequently raised questions about the resilience of the Indian house as foreign typology, adopted as a result of historical evolution, and its successful adaptation to the local context in the form of the mixed house. The study highlights the spectrum of issues related to waste and water 60 /page

management, which fit increasingly deeper into the space of the city and its surroundings and threaten its housing, economic and urban development, health and the environment. On the other hand, it has become evident that protecting this ecosystem is not a matter of simply mapping out a buffer zone, but requires comprehensive planning which takes into account the contemporary needs of the town and ensures a level of harmony between new development and land protection.

Recommendations and Contributions The topic of preserving urban identity has been broadly explored and discussed by scholars. Despite of their different interpretations of the term, the following five aspects have been mutually agreed to be essential for enhancing a local urban identity (Kim, 2000): 1.Continuity, by utilising traditional design elements when designing new buildings; 2.Uniqueness, by acknowledging the peculiar character of the local cultural heritage; 3.Significance, by fitting conservation symbolic monuments and historic districts;


4.Compatibility, by appropriating new buildings in the historic area to the specific context; 5.Cohesiveness, by maintaining the coherence and homogeneity of the townscape; Ultimately, sustaining the cultural identity of the city depends on the integrity of their historic urban centres. However, the process towards achieving the outlined aspects demands understanding that while the undergoing changes of the town are reflecting the evolution of tradition, tradition should not be invoked as an instrument to prevent change as its endurance through space and time incorporates change (AlSayyad, 2014). What is more, the influence of technology should not be perceived as a threat to the cultural. Both symbolism and innovation are crucial to society as they ensure the transmission and continuation of a civilisation’s contributions whilst maintaining a sense of familiarity with the past and achievement associated with the present (Alhasani, 1996). This study has revealed the influence of the political state on both urban development and cultural heritage conservation. Evaluating the different aspects and issues of the built environment and their progress over the past decade has highlighted the discrepancies between the communal opinion and the government agendas. While influencing

political decisions in countries with unstable government might be difficult to achieve, propagating a sense of place and belonging throughout the community can alleviate the transmission of cultural and traditional norms between generations whilst encouraging recognition and appreciation to the built environment. “Perhaps‌the real importance of studying those different forms, notions, and theories of traditional dwellings is that they tell us more about ourselves as human beings. They tell us more about our similarities and differences, about our agreements and conflicts, about our dreams and realities, and about where we are, where we were and where we are possibly heading.â€?

fig. 82: Research participants

fig. 81: Interview: Abdusamad Idris


List of figures


cover : Author’s


figure 1: Thresholds. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 2: Free space. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 3: Dump site. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 4a: Mosque. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 4b: Mosque. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 5: Contrasting economic status. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 6: View of Harar from Coffe stream, engraving from First footsteps in East Africa.

Online Image. by Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), 1856. Africa, 19th century. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale De France [24/07/2019]


figure 7: Streetscape. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 8: Ramadan prayer. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 9: Urban division. Online Image. CIRPS and HPNRS. [23/07/2019]


figure 10: Dwelling typologies. Online Image. CIRPS and HPNRS. [23/07/2019]


figure 11: Main avenue. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 12: Main avenue. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 13: Argoba gate market. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 14: Mosque. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 15: Badro Bari gate. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 16: Buffer zone. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 17: Harar’s eastern surroundings. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 18a: Hyena gate. (Author’s photograph digital)


igure 18b: Hyenas. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 19: House compound. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 20: Shared house compound. (Author’s photograph digital)]


figure 21: Traditional Harari ‘Gidir Gar’. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 22a-d: Streetscape. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 23: Rowda Waber house. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 24: Case Study: Rowda Waber house. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 25: Compound plan. Online Image. UNESCO. [02/07/2019]


figure 26: Ge Gar. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 27: Miniature courtyard. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 28: Threshold. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 29: Compound within a compound. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 30: Mixed house courtyard. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 31: Colour coding. (Author’s photograph digital)

62 /page


figure 32: The gate. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 33: Streetscape. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 34a-d: House interior. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 35: Indian house plan. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 36: Case study: Ras Tafari Makonnen’s Indian house. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 37: Mixed house. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 38: Rimbaud’s house. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 39: Ras Tafari’s house. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 40: Traditional meal. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 41: Catholic school. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 42: SOS Hermann Gmeiner School Harar. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 43: Phenomenology. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 44a: Revised buffer zone. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 44b: River bed. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 45: Obstructed landscape. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 46: Tailoring shop. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 47: Harari gate. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 48: Barracks. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 49: Homeless person chewing khat. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 50: New school. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 51: Crossroad. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 52: Exhaustion. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 53: Uncovered. (Author’s photograph digital)]


figure 54: Drainage. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 55: Sewage. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 56: Filth. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 57: Palettes. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 58: Freshening up. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 59: Contrasting economic status. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 60: Improvisations. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 61: Use of contemporary materials. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 62: Deterioration. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 63: Coffee preparation. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 64: Roof structure. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 65: Deterioration. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 66: Integrating nature. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 67: Natural resources. (Author’s photograph digital)


figure 68: Limestone - hashi stone combination. (Author’s photograph digital)

53 figure 69: Traditional construction technique. (Author’s photograph digital) 53 figure 70: Use of inappropriate materials. (Author’s photograph digital) 54 figure 71: Scale. (Author’s photograph digital) 54 figure 72: Juxtaposition. (Author’s photograph digital) 54 figure 73: Spear holders. (Author’s photograph digital) 54 figure 74: Khat chewing space. (Author’s photograph digital) 54 figure 75: Contemporary ‘dera’. (Author’s photograph digital) 55 figure 76: Contemporary ‘gidir gar’. (Author’s photograph digital) 56 figure 77: Market. (Author’s photograph digital) 57 figure 78: The Italian meat market. (Author’s photograph digital) 58 figure 79: Safety wall. (Author’s photograph digital) 59 figure 80: Decaying mixed house. (Author’s photograph digital) 61 figure 81: Interview: Abdusamad Idris. (Author’s photograph digital) 61 figure 82: Research participants. (Author’s photograph digital)

64 /page

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