Muslim celebrations

Although the majority of Ethiopians are (Ethiopian Orthodox) Christians there are almost 40 million Muslims in the country. This is about a third of the population. The Islamic holidays Maulid (the birth of the prophet Mohammed), Eid ul Fitr (the end of Ramadan), and Eid al Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) are public holidays in Ethiopia. Huge crowds are celebrating in Addis Ababa. A good place to experience Muslim celebrations is in the 4th holy town of Islam, Harar.

Sheikh Hussein

The small town of Sheikh Hussein in the Bale Zone in the Oromo Region,  255 km southeast of Addis Ababa as the crow flies, is of special importance for the Muslims of Ethiopia. This town is named after Sheikh Hussein who lived in the 13th century and introduced Islam to the area. It is said this Sufi Saint performed many miracles. His tomb became a shrine.

The sacred complex with the white-washed, red-blue domed, tomb of the Sheikh is twice a year the destination of a pilgrimage of thousands of Muslims. The pilgrims travel long distances by all means of transport including donkeys. But most will walk, even barefoot, to reach this sacred place. You can recognize them by a small cleft stick which entitled them to hospitality along the road. The pilgrimage combines Islamic practice with traditional Oromo beliefs, and other sacred sites in the area have the attention of the pilgrims.

One pilgrimage coincides with the Hajj to Mecca. The other one, half a year later is connected to Abbu Muda, an Oromo religious leader.