Why I Love… Ethiopia. A “point-of-view” perspective of a wild, hulking hyena shooting towards your face is humorously terrifying.
In 2005 I was lucky enough to travel to the ancient city of Harar, in Eastern Ethiopia. It’s a day’s journey from Addis Ababa (514 kilometers) or only a paltry 170 km from Somalia (in the slim chance you may be coming from that direction). Harar’s population is predominantly Muslim and is the fourth holiest city in Islam.
In the animal kingdom, no mammal is able to consume bone like the hyena. Powerful, muscular jars crush right through bones and extraoridinary stomach acids aid in digesting it. Despite this haunting reputation, locals of Harar are quite at peace with and admire these infamous “bone eaters.”
Hyena Man Cometh
Hours past dusk we meet Hyena Man outside the city’s ancient walls. He’s armed only with a stern voice, a basket of meat and a twig. Hyena Man bellows out a song into the surrounding black, a series of high-pitched yips and yelps to summon his minions. In moments, dozens of eyes appear – skulking, yellow eyes absorbing the fire from our lantern. The circling hyenas lick their chops at the prospect of treats. Hyena Man is the alpha male, fully dominant as the beasts bow their heads low and await their turn to take his offering hanging on the meat stick.
Hyena Man distributes some of the snacks and soon gives me a turn. I creep up, hand shaking and balancing the strip of meat. One pounces from out of the shadows and swallows it up. Horror is replaced by exhilaration and I grab another piece. This is now plain fun, almost like feeding a family dog.
The Grand Finale
Next, my mate Tim prepares the camera as I sink my teeth into the stick – mimicking Hyena Man’s latest trick. One charges forward and all I recall is a bright flash through my eye lids. My eyes shoot open, and cross-eyed, I can see the meat is gone. Again! The next few times its eyes wide open. It takes hours for a hyena induced rush to wear off.
Get Out There!
At the time, the two of us just rocked up to Harar and just asked around about the Hyena Man. If you’re not as spontaneous, tour can be arranged nowadays. Hyena Man still does these feedings nightly, they are amazing!
This is why I love Ethiopia – interacting with a local Harar legend and a pack of wild hyenas. If you have the opportunity it shouldn’t be missed. Get out there and most important, have fun!