Shewal Eid Festival to kick off in Harar on April 18th, 2024


The vibrant Shewal Eid Festival, scheduled for Wednesday, April 17th, 2024, in Harar, promises a colorful celebration. Preparation has been underway, with young girls and boys undergoing training for lively parades. The elders and women of Harar will proudly don traditional attires, adding to the festival’s vibe.

Cultural diversity will be on display through various performances, including traditional music by talented musicians representing the Harari, Afar, Somali, and Oromia cultures.

But what historical significance underlies the celebration of Shewal Eid?

Historical background for celebrating Shewal Eid

Harar, one of Ethiopia’s jewel cities, boasts a rich history spanning over a millennium, with around 100 rulers having governed its lands, leaving behind numerous funerary sites and monuments. The city is adorned with approximately 300 sacred tombs and memorials, along with 80 mosques, showcasing its deep-rooted Islamic heritage.

Situated close to Zeyla and Berbera ports, Harar has historically enjoyed significant trade connections, attracting traders and scholars from Europe, the Arab world, and the Far East, who traversed long distances to visit its cultural treasures.

As one of the world’s oldest and most unique Islamic cities, Harar stands alongside renowned historical sites like Timbuktu and Lamu. It serves as a testament to the diverse cultures and influences, reflecting the traditions of Afar sultans, Somali ugaz, Bale and Arsi Sheikhs, and Mashaikhs.

Every corner of Harar breathes history, from the awe-inspiring 3 km-long Jigol wall to the enchanting historic gates and trade routes leading to ports.

Indeed, the surrounding areas of Harar, stretching from Zeilaa and Berbera to Jigjiga, Bale, Awsa, and Awash, offer ample opportunities for tourism, showcasing the region’s rich tapestry of heritage and natural beauty. Furthermore, Harar’s economic significance is evidenced by its historical role in minting currency, a tradition that contributed to the inception of Emperor Menelik’s coinage, second only to Aksum.

Harar’s cultural legacy extends beyond its borders, fostering connections with regions like Eritrea, Tigray, Gondar, and Wollo, where descendants of prominent figures like Aw Abadir are found. Additionally, the city shares historical ties with the Jimma Sultanate, reflecting its broader influence and significance in Ethiopian history and beyond. The scholars of Harar spread Islam throughout East Africa for at least 1000 years. Although the number of scholars who came to Harar from all over East Africa to learn the knowledge of Harari scholars is not known, their footprints can still be found throughout East Africa of today.

Therefore, scholars of Harar do not need to be taught that Islamic holidays are only Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. However, why did they decide to celebrate one more Eid in Shawwal? Is Shawwal Eid associated with other peripheral cultures? Or is there a historical reason?

To answer the aforementioned questions, it is necessary to thoroughly study the history of Hariri. Let’s look at some of them below. Shewal Eid is a special festival celebrated in the month of Shewal in Harar, and Hararis explain that this festival is traditional and not religious abided by Sharia. In fact, if this festival was not so peripheral, the scholars of Harar, who spread Islam throughout East Africa, would have influenced it to be celebrated by all. This issue is not seen in others except Tigray, Wollo and Gondar.

Even in these areas, the 8th day of Shawwal is celebrated by slaughtering chickens, sheep and goats and praying. Even in every mosque, it is not beyond imagination.

So why only in Harare? Scholars who link the issue with history explain that Shewal Eid is the day when Imam Ahmed Ibrahim won the battle of Shimbra Kure.

In actual fact the victory Imam Ahmed in Shimbra Kure was not on the 8th day of Shawwal? Although there are different opinions on the exact day of victory, it is likely to be on 7th March 1529, which is the month of Jumadel Kali 935, which is 30th March 1521 in our calendar.

Others say that the victory of Shimbra Kure is on March 11, 1529 in our calendar, April 3, 1521, which is Rajab 1, 935. The difference between the two calendars is 3 days. Some suggest that it was made to be on Shewal because he arrived in Harar at this memorable day.

Another hypothesis about Shewal Eid

As it is well known, studies indicate that before the spread of Islam in East Africa today, there was widespread traditional worships in Harare and its surroundings. It was a time when trees were worshipped, rivers were revered, sorcerers and astrologers were worshipped. Some worships may lead to human sacrifice. Young men and girls used to sing dance and select their future partners given this opportunity. However, such a loose culture is not allowed in Islam, so it must be replaced by another Islamic culture. That mere reason led to the celebration of ShewalEid.

It can be said that Harar Shewal has its own tradition of celebrating Eid. The tradition came after a long period of history and reasons, and it did not happen all at once. Many religious leaders of the day have celebrated it, so it has received their approval. The scholars are famous not only in the country, but also in different countries, so they know the secret. In any case, Shewalid, like other abstract and tangible cultural heritages of the Hariris, is currently receiving much attention. It is recognized by UNESCO as intangible heritage last year. It is also accepted as medium that is reflecting a culture of peace, love and tolerance.


Hence, whether the rationale behind celebrating the Shewal Eid festival is fully understood or not, the people of Harar hold the rightful prerogative to preserve this tradition and transmit it to the future generations of Harari. Preserving and transmitting cultural traditions like the Shewal Eid festival holds profound importance for several reasons.

Firstly, these traditions serve as repositories of collective memory, reflecting the beliefs, values, and practices of a community across generations. By safeguarding and passing down such rituals, societies maintain a sense of continuity and identity, anchoring themselves in their cultural heritage amidst rapid societal changes. Cultural traditions like Shewal Eid foster a sense of belonging and solidarity among community members. Participating in these celebrations strengthens social bonds, promotes mutual understanding, and reinforces shared values, thereby fostering social cohesion and resilience in the face of challenges.

Moreover, cultural festivals like Shewal Eid provide opportunities for intergenerational learning and exchange. As younger generations partake in these traditions, they gain insights into their cultural roots, learning from elders and connecting with their heritage. This transmission of knowledge and values from one generation to the next ensures the preservation of cultural heritage for posterity. Cultural traditions often carry intrinsic artistic and creative value, encompassing various forms of music, dance, attire, cuisine, and craftsmanship. By preserving and showcasing these artistic expressions, communities contribute to the enrichment of global cultural diversity, fostering appreciation and understanding across borders. Cultural festivals like Shewal Eid can also run serve as platforms for promoting cultural tourism and economic development. As visitors from diverse backgrounds engage with local traditions, they contribute to the vitality of local economies, supporting artisans, performers, and small businesses while fostering cross-cultural exchange and understanding.

In essence, the preservation and transmission of cultural traditions like Shewal Eid are essential for maintaining social cohesion, fostering intergenerational connections, celebrating artistic expressions, promoting cultural diversity, and stimulating economic growth. As custodians of their heritage, communities play a vital role in safeguarding these traditions for future generations, ensuring that the tapestry of human culture remains vibrant and resilient for centuries to come.



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