Feeding Hyenas in Harar, Ethiopia – MOUTH TO MOUTH
UPDATE AUGUST 2021. Of all 197 countries, People often ask my which is my favourite country in the world, and while there is no one answer to that in truth, but Ethiopia is top five that much is for sure. I spent a few weeks in Ethiopia, travelling all around the country with one of my best buddies on a super tight budget, it was long before I learned how to start a travel blog, I made money online, and during that time in the East of the country, I had one of my best ever travel experiences ever – feeding hyenas in Harar, mouth to mouth. I’m going to share the story in the hope that it’ll inspire you guys to visit this beautiful country and venture east to Harar in particular.
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Wait, What?! Feeding Hyenas in Harar?!
Hyenas have been present in this part of Ethiopia for centuries. Rumour has it that at the start of last century the local Hararis started feeding the local wild hyenas each evening in a bid to stop them killing their livestock, over time the hyenas got a little a lazy and rather than hunting for their dinner, they would come searching for their red meat from the hyena man.
This has continued to this day, and although the practice is dying out (you better hurry!), the hyenas, although wild, have adopted an odd stance of being at ease with the local men. That being said, they are huge wild beasts, so one wrong move and you could lose a limb. Or at least a portion of your nose! So the whole event is to be treated with respect. And of course, this isn’t any official tourism deal, so it’s all at your own risk. And it’s pretty scary.
My personal experience feeding hyenas in Harar, Ethiopia
I had heard rumours about the ‘hyena men’ of Harar. As soon as I left Addis Ababa, I made a beeline for the city. Once there I asked around about the hyenas but I hadn’t arrived until late afternoon, and it was getting dark. People knew instantly who I was talking about. And although people were pointing us in the right direction and I was worried we wouldn’t find them in time.
As I walked through the old city, about to give up on finding the Hyena man of Harar today, I saw heard some huge wild dogs darting around behind me. Right in the city. Wild dogs are often a nuisance in Africa so I turn around to make sure they aren’t coming to bother me. Nope. Not dogs. Hyenas, running freely around the outskirts of the city. Wow.
Surreal as it was, I knew I was in the right place. Another couple of winding corners and into a large dusty open space and there he was, the hyena man of Harar. He didn’t speak much English. And my Ethiopian is a little rust. After a quick game of charades and he knew what we wanted. I handed him the quick equivalent of about $5 tip and we’re in business. The sun had set now and he disappeared into a shed and re-emerged with a basket full of red meat. Throughout our ‘discussion’, we could hear the howls of the hyenas. The odd one would sprint across your eye line, howl, and then scurry into the darkness. They are skittish animals, intimidating yet fearful.
Once the red meat came out, it was almost pitch black and the hyenas were getting a little braver. Two or three approached me and the Hyena man. I asked my buddy Paul to take a photo of me beside the man as he fed two of the hyenas with red meat on a stick. Paul turned on the flash, took the pic of the ‘two’ hyenas only upon checking the phot, twenty sets of eyes reflected the light of the flash. We were literally surround by them!
Before long the hyena man was putting the meat on the stick. And the stick in his mouth. And feeding the hyenas mouth-to-mouth. The would crawl quietly up to him. Then snatch it off the stick. Their teeth just inches from his face. He was giggling each time he saw my terrified reaction. Instantly I thought “NI chance I’m doing that”. Then, the old male ego kicks in, ten seconds later I am doing exactly that! And that’s the photo at the top. If you look carefully, you can see me squeezing my eyes closed. I was petrified. Yet exhilarated. And what a photo!
Where is the hyena feeding in Harar, Ethiopia?
Feeding Hyenas happens in Harar, the oldest Islamic city in all of Africa. It’s in the extreme east of the country near the Somalian border, which is where I headed off to next to travel around Somailand. All travel in Ethiopia starts in the hectic capital, Addis Ababa. If you want to go and see the hyenas you can take a ten-hour bus journey east to Harar, leaving Addis around 5am. Or you can fly for about $200. The landscape as you overland throughout the journey is breathtaking, and while the coach may be old and uncomfortable, with views like this I’d encourage everyone regardless of budget to travel by land.
Once you make it to Harar, everyone will be able to help you find the ‘Hyena Man’. Just make sure you give yourself an hour or so to find him, and it only happens after dusk. I’d suggest going to the old town around 3 or 4 pm, and asking around. That will do the trick. EDIT NOVEMBER 2020. Someone has now marked it on google maps! Ah the power of technology eh?!
Final thoughts on feeding Hyenas in Harar, Ethiopia
Would I recommend it? Well, it depends on your appetite for risk, and the quality of your travel insurance (my travel insurance is just $9 a week!). If you have all that covered, then yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. I recommend Ethiopia to everyone who wants to travel, one of the best countries in the whole world to visit with so many amazing things. And feeding hyenas in Harar? One of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. But still probably just the SECOND COOLEST thing to do in Ethiopia, with visiting the Danakil Depression still taking the number 1 spot. Remember, we weren’t put on this earth to pay bills and die. Happy travels.
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