You you! PHOTO one birr - or the southern Ethiopia experience

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Africa » Ethiopia » Southern Nations Region
September 18th 2008
Published: October 12th 2008
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Omo valley tour

Hamer womenHamer womenHamer women

Check out the hairdo. Clay and butter hold that in place. The two necklaces indicate that she is the second wife


The main reason to go down south in Ethiopia (switch of your dirty mind, no pun intended) is to see the various local tribes. This should be accompanied by wish to get shaken and stirred in a Land Cruiser for hours on end on bad roads. It is a long drive down but very worth it.

The first tribe we saw were the Hamer people. They are subsistence farmers and are quite happy living like its 1599. Our first encounter was in a small market in a small town. The great thing about Ethiopia is that it is defiantly not a mass tourism country and so we were the only Faranjis (white person) in the market and there was not one stall in sight which caters for tourists. Everything sold and bought is for the locals which show up in numbers and dressed up in their Sunday best. This Sunday best is often not much around the chest (men and women) and some lion cloth around the hips. Not to forget a massive amount of jewelry and ornaments. Many tribes are very proud of their outfit and accessories and take great pride in dressing up for the occasion. Visually very stunning and I doubt the outfit has changed in the last 200 years ago apart from the plastic bits and pieces they use as jewelry these days. Some do wear western clothing like T-shirts (ever wondered where the stuff ends up that you put into the clothing bins?) but mainly its traditional. The Hamer hairstyle is quite interesting as they twist the hair, put some clay and butter in it to make it last. Check out the pics and you know what I mean.
Hamer men (if they have strong nerves and lots of kettle) can marry up to three women and each wife wears a different amount of necklaces depending on if she is the first, second or third wife

One of the most fascinating and weirdest sights on earth must be the Mursi women of the lower Omo valley. They live in a national park and have and even more basic lifestyle than the other tribes. The outstanding (literally) feature of the Mursi women is the lip plate. The plate is made of clay or wood and can have a diameter of around 15 cm! When young the lip is pierced a little and over time larger and larger sticks and plates are inserted. They do not wear the lip plate all the time as it must be very uncompfortable but not wearing it doesn’t make them more attractive. Think of a mouth without a lip and a lot of flesh dangling down….
For Mursi men this is a major turn on and for the rest of the world a rather uncomfortable thing to look at. Again pictures speak louder than words. The Mursi are also the most pushy and business like (speak we want money) people I have encountered in Ethiopia. They might live a simple life but they figured out what tourists want. There was a major hustle and bustle when we turned up at the village as they didn’t expect us that early and didn’t wear extensive body decoration which they figured tourists want to see.
I have never paid a cent for a picture I took but I had to change that for Southern Ethiopia. Don’t know who started it but now each and everyone expects 1-2 birr for each picture taken.

The Dorse are a world apart from the Mursi as they live quite comfortably in the 20th century. They

Is to weak a word to describe these men. They are more feminine than the women. One checked himself out for 30 minutes using or rear mirror
are famous for their weaving skills and do good trade. The outstanding thing about this tribe are the huts and the bread. The Dorse huts can be up to 12 m high and are build using bamboo and false banana leaves. Termites quite like bamboo and every 5 years the hut is lifted from its base, a few cm are cut off and the huts are set down again. This is done until the hut is too short to live in. Some of these huts are said to be older than 80 years.
The Dorse live higher up and they cannot grow wheat. Instead they use the flesh of the false banana tree (looks like a banana tree but doesn’t have bananas). They cut the tree, scrape the flesh off the leaves and then bury it for three months! After that its baked and its said to have a strange taste…

the car

As there is no real other viable alternative we had to do the tour using a hired 4WD including a driver/guide. This is a good thing as it saves a lot of hassle and time. The only problem was our aging 1989 Land Cruiser. Every day something went wrong. The one day the breaks failed partially, the other a radiator pipe burst, then there was a leaking clutch fluid hose, two punctures and the 4WD not working.

Ras Tafari

Pot smoking dreadlock wearing Jamaicans in Ethiopia? Wait it gets better. Their king and God is Ethiopian too! No other than the last King of Ethiopia Haile Selassie I also known under his pre King name Ras Tafari is this Godlike person to them. He is/was seen as the incarnation of a biblical prophecy of a King coming from Africa.
Bizarre as it sounds King Haile Selassie was quite chuffed and accepted the god like status (who wouldn’t?) and even granted the Rasta’s a sizable piece of land in Ethiopia. Some of them moved over and are still living in a town called Shashemene.

Additional photos below
Photos: 34, Displayed: 25



check out the pierced lip
Smiling cost extraSmiling cost extra
Smiling cost extra

Each peroson in this pic demanded 1 birr. Smiling would have cost 2 each...
Termite “hill”Termite “hill”
Termite “hill”

Was about 5 meters high
The local work horseThe local work horse
The local work horse

Donkeys are used for everything. Poor little buggers. Their revenge is to stand in the middle of the road when cars approach and they do not move out of the way
Ping pong and table soccer...Ping pong and table soccer...
Ping pong and table soccer...

Are the main distractions in most towns. You find them everywhere
First person I paid money for a photoFirst person I paid money for a photo
First person I paid money for a photo

Check out the one birr note in his hand

21st October 2008

Great writing and pics!
Hi guys! hi Kellie! Jason from CareerOne here. LOVING the writing and the pics. Its all completely fascinating! Jason

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