Hyena in-law

I’ve been trying to avoid being self-indulgent and mentioning my recent marriage to the most beautiful, intelligent, and vivacious woman in the whole world but now it’s unavoidable. After our wedding three weeks ago, we’d been visiting the hyena man’s house nightly and his family, who treat me as one of their own, were taking my wife, Tigist, into their hearts. On the fourth night, we were sitting in front of the shrine and, while there was a lull in the feeding, Willi came up to give me his usual greeting. Basically a glance and a sniff of my boots, probably to see where I’ve been. But what happened next was amazing. Willi inspected my wife. To her credit, she sat perfectly still while he sniffed her knees and her hands, actually touching her with his nose. Then seemingly satisfied, he wandered off in search of some bones to crunch. This was interesting because it’s highly unusual for Willi to sniff someone so closely. Usually all he does is stand in front of a person at the shrine and bob his head up and down, probably wondering if they have any food available. All I can imagine is that he’d watched Tigist and I together for so many nights and decided he should find out what this person smelled like.

The following night I took Tigist to the hill and found Willi lying in the grass. I let him bite my sleeve while I handed Tigist my torch to scratch his chin with. This was when number two amazing thing happened. Willi bit into my arm a little too hard and I reacted instinctively, smacking him on the head with my (aluminium) torch. He recoiled and retreated 5 metres, looking at me warily. But then immediately he came back and held his nose up to my face and let me pat his head and say sorry. Commonsense would dictate that he should be afraid of me after cracking him on the head with a torch, but it was entirely the reverse. It was touching that he must have understood why I hit him and trusted me not to do it again if he came back. As my Harari friend, who often visits the hyena feeding says, ‘Willi is the strangest hyena’.


6 thoughts on “Hyena in-law

  1. Oh by the way, do you recognize any of these hyenas? I found this picture on my coworker’s Facebook page. I believe he said he went to Harar.

    • Hi Cecile,
      Those are actually Assumberi hyenas that feed at the ‘Christian’ place north of the old town. That place is run strictly as a business and there’s a good description of it here:
      Its sad but the guides in Harar generally favour that place because the hyenas arrive earlier and are more ‘reliable’ so that they can finish with their customers earlier and go drink beer, chew chat and whatever. What irks me is that the hyenas are not allowed to leave the area until 9pm and the feeders there throw rocks at them to keep them from leaving.
      If you come to Harar, and you are hiring a guide, you should insist on seeing the hyenas at the muslim shrine of Aw Ansar. Sadly the guide will probably still take you to the Assumberi place mentioned above and insist that the water tank there is the shrine of Aw Ansar. You know the local word for tour guide is ‘farenj-atali’. It translates as ‘one who lies to foreigners’. Cute.

  2. Could she have bitten you because she felt you were protective of your wife and was a little jealous?
    It’s funny, I just got married last month as well 🙂
    Congratulations! I’m happy you found an amazing woman.

  3. Amazing experience! should this Willi Waraba need to be studied in particular? as its proxy with Marc seems to have unique features. sometimes it sounds just like domestic animals. I wonder about this Willi!

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