It is better to reach Dirree Sheek Huseen on foot, as it is the pace of man and cattle: a rhythm conducive to reflection. To reach this location is to connect with a place of worship and the men and women who live there. It is also a place to come in contact with the 50,000 visitors (called Muda, whether in Oromo Afar or Amharic) who come here twice yearly.
The town is named after Sheek Nur Huseen, a legendary and mythical character who crossed the country on foot performing all kinds of miracles. History relates that Sheek Nur Huseen’s father came from Iraq with 300 followers, and that he converted the Horn of Africa around IX century AC. So Sheek Nur Huseen was born in Ethiopia. His peregrinations came to an end at Diree where he founded a madrasa numbering 6,666 students.
Amongst the miracles attributed to him, one must note the deviation of the Shabele River that was blocking his route. He deviated it with the help of his stick. This stick is the same one the pilgrims carry. It is characterized by a v-shaped upper extremity. This form is not insignificant as it is attributed to many traditions: it was on Dacian currency (ancient Romania) for example; it is also a hieroglyphic representing the double-faced god Janus; or, the shape of a divining rod. This stick is called "Ulle Sheek Huseen".
More extraordinary is the legend that recollects when Sheek Huseen went by foot from Dodola, in the Bale region, to the place where he founded his city. There is a mountain at Diree Sheek Huseen that has the same shape and dimensions of the Dodola Mountain, thereby the saying that the mountain followed the man, and for this reason it is included in the holy sights that can be seen in the region.
Pilgrims come from all over Ethiopia to Dirree Sheek Huseen to mourn on the saint’s tomb. The emplacement is a testimony to the many miracles he accomplished. There are two pilgrimages a year: during the month of Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) during which is celebrated the birth of the saint, and the month of Rabi’al-Awwal, the month of his passing away.
One must remember that Ethiopia is a land of great spiritual significance. Diree Sheek Huseen is one of the three pilgrimages: the other two being Kullubi and Gishen Maryam. The nominal link between these Ethiopian holy places and the religions of "The Book": Diree Sheek Huseen is located in Oromo county, whose chief town is Nazareth. Ethiopia can be regarded as a very ancient land of welcome for the three religions of The Book. Tradition confirms this point as it situates one of the homelands of the mysterious kingdoms of Father John in Abyssinia. This land corresponds to what was once the kingdom of Ethiopia, which would represent today the countries of Ethiopia, Eritrea and also North Somalia, Djibouti, Southern Egypt, East Sudan, Yemen…
Dirree Sheek Huseen is located on the lower plateaus at 1385m altitude. Most of the pilgrims round up village members to gather funds to charter a bus for the round trip. Others go there on foot. This pilgrimage is for all people. This kind of gathering, inseparable with the notion of "path", must evoke, for Christians, the Way of St. James.
One of the most touching aspects of the divers pilgrimages that are accomplished in Ethiopia is the absence of sectarianism. Were a Westerner present at these pilgrimages, devoted to holy saints of Islam, of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church or of Animist Spirituality, he could witness how they unite, without distinction, believers of different faiths without any animosity on anyone’s part. So Christians come to pay homage to Muslim saints, and likewise. One must bear in mind the role that saints hold in Islamic Sufism, which is the keeper of mysticism in that religion. Thereby, the traveler finds himself caught up in the fervor of Faith and Spirituality.
"Have they, then, never journeyed about the earth, letting their hearts gain wisdom, and causing their ears to hear? Yet, verily, it is not their eyes that have become blind - but blind have become the hearts that are in their breasts" (Quran 22:46)