Ethiopia, an old country beyond all imaginations, has culture and traditions dating back over 3000 years. With over 80 different Ethnic groups with their own language, culture and traditions.The strong religious setting, celebrations and festivals play an important part in every ones daily life.Church ceremonies are a major feature of Ethiopian life. The events are impressive and unique. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has its own head, follows its own customs, and is extremely proud of its fourth century origins. Ethiopia’s Islamic tradition is also strong and offers colorful contrast, particularly in the eastern and south-eastern parts of the country. In fact, there were Ethiopian Muslims during the lifetime of Prophet Mohammed. This rich religious history is brought to life in the romantic walled city of Harar, considered by many Muslims to be the fourth “Holy City” following Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.
The Amhara women wear dresses that are tight bodice and full skirted. The dresses are bright whIET with colored embroidery and woven borders. The men are resplendent in whIET jodhpurs and tunics.Although originally most of the border designs were based on the varied design of the Ethiopian cross, today you sometimes see more modern motifs – flowers, birds and even airplanes.
The Muslims of Harar wear colorful dress. The men often dress in red, purple or black. The women of Harar part their hair in the middle and make large buns behind their ears. Harari women have been known for their basketwork for centuries and still weave intricate creations from coloured fibers and grasses. Harar is also famous for the work of its silversmiths, who craft beautiful anklets, necklaces, arm bands, silver chains, bangles and earrings out of the precious metal. Although these IETms can be purchased at the market, some of the best selections can be found in the homes of the craftsmen and women.
The Afar, most of whom occupy one of the most inhospitable desert or semi-desert areas in the world, have long been regarded as a fierce and warlike people. They are certainly proud and individualistic, and somehow manage to eke a living out of the challenging wilderness in which many of them live. The majority of the Afar are semi-nomadic pastoralists, but a minority have settled, notably those in the Aussa oasis. Almost all are Muslims, and are organized into confederacies, tribes, and clans. The nomads live in small, isolated groups with the camel as their beast of burden, and keep sheep, goats, and cattle.
The Anuak people are found in the Gambella region. The indigenous Anuak people are mainly fishermen in this region, and the crops they do grow such as: sorghum does not reach their full potential because of the extremely basic methods employed. There are few large villages, as people prefer instead to group together around a mango grove in the extended family compound of no more than five or six huts.
The Oromo people, offer their products for sale in open markets. They produce the more familiar grains and vegetables of established agriculture. Coffee, one of the world’s favorIET beverages,is believed to have been ‘born’ in this region.
The lowland Somali wear long, often brightly coloured cotton wraps, while some of the cattle-herders in the lake district have clothing made of skins.
The South People
The Southern region is comprised of hundreds of ethnic groups. South of Konso and Yabello is inhabIETd by the Konso people. Except for trading with the neighbouring Borena for salt or cowrie shells, outside influence had, until recently, virtually passed by the Konso. The cornerstone of Konso culture, however, is a highly specialized and successful agricultural economy that, through terracing buttressed with stone, enable them to extract a productive living from the none-too-fertile hills and valleys that surround them.
The women of Tigray wear dozens of plaits (shuruba) tightly braided to the head and fuzzing out at the shoulders.Young children often have their heads shaved, except for a tuft or a small tail of plaits, which are left so that if God calls them ‘He will have a handle by which to lift them up to Heaven’
The Lower Omo is home to a remarkable mix of small, contrasting ethnic groups not only the Bume and Konso, but also the Gelebe, the Bodi, the Mursi, the Surma, the Arbore, and the Hamer, to name but a few.Lifestyles are as varied as the tribes themselves. Lacking any material, culture and artifacts common to other cultures, these tribes find unique ways in which to express their artistic impulses. Both the Surma and the Karo, for example, are experts at body painting, using clays and locally available vegetable pigments to trace fantastic patterns on each other’s faces, chests, arms, and legs. These designs are created purely for fun and aesthetic effect, each artist vying to outdo his fellows.Omo Valley is undoubtedly one of the most unique places on earth because of the wide variety of people and animals that inhabit it. It is located in Africa’s Great Rift Valley. The region is known for its culture and diversity. The tribes that live in the lower Omo Valley are believed to be among the most fascinating on the continent of Africa and around the world. Tours are offered to several towns and villages. It is often you come into contact with the following tribes: Arbore, Ari, Bena, Bodi,Bumi, Daasanech (Geleb), Dorze, Hamer (Hamar), Kara (or Karo), Konso, Kwegu (or Muguji), Mursi, Tsemay, and Turkana when you tour the valley.It is estimated that the Omo Valley is home to over 200,000 tribal people. Among the ancient African tribes that live in the southern part of Ethiopia, there is a wide variety of wildlife as well. Some of the animals that you will find there are the Bitis Arietans (venomous snake), crocodiles and hippopotamuses. The two main national parks in Omo Valley are the Omo National Park and the Mago National Park which are home to the majority of the wildlife in the valley.
The Arbore tribe is a small tribe that lives in the southwest region of the Omo Valley. They have ancestral and cultural links to the Konso people and perform many ritual dances while singing. The Tsemay people are their neighboring tribe. Arbore people are pastoralists (livestock farmers). They believe that their singing and dancing eliminates negative energy and with the negative energy gone,the tribe will prosper. The women of the tribe cover their heads with a black cloth and are known to wear very colorful necklaces.
The Ari people inhabit the northern part of the Mago National Park in Ethiopia and have the largest territory of all the tribes in the area. They have fertile lands allowing them to have several types of plantations. An Ari’s crop can consist of grains, coffee, fruits and honey. It’s also common for them to have large herds of livestock. Their women are known for selling pottery and wearing skirts made from banana trees called enset. Tribe members wear a lot of jewellery and have many piercings in their ears. They wrap beads and bracelets around their arms and waist for decoration.The Ari are known to paint and scar their bodies as part of their culture. You can find some of the Ari people visiting the market in Key Afer.
Bena or Bana Tribe
Banna, Bana, and Benna are other spellings for the Bena people. They are neighbors with the Hamer tribe and it is believed that the Bena actually originated from them centuries ago. The markets in Key Afer and Jinka are often visited by them.Just like most of the indigenous tribes in the lower Omo Valley, the Bena practice ritual dancing and singing. The men often have their hair dressed up with a colorful clay cap that is decorated with feathers. Both the men and women wear long garments and paint their bodies with white chalk. Women of the tribe wear beads in their hair that is held together with butter.The Bena look very similar to the Hamer and are often called the Hamer-Bena. Common rituals and traditions of other tribes are shared by the Bena. The boys in the tribe participate in bull jumping. When it is time for the boy to become a man, he must jump over a number of bulls naked without falling. If he is able to complete this task, he will become a man and be able to marry a woman
Bodi or Me’en Tribe
The Bodi or Me’en people live close to the Omo River in southern Ethiopia. South of the Bodi are the Mursi tribe. They are pastoralists (livestock farmers) and agriculturalists. Along the banks of the river, they will grow sorghum, mais and coffee. They live with their cattle herds and livestock plays a large role in the tribe. Men of the Bodi are typically overweight because they consume large amounts of honey. The men wear a strip of cotton around their waist or walk around naked. In June, the Bodi celebrate Ka’el. This is a tradition that measures the body fat of a contestant. Each family or clan is allowed to enter an unmarried contestant. The winner of this contest is awarded great fame by the tribe. Men also wear a headband with a feather attached to it during rituals. The women in the tribe wear goatskin skirts and have a plug inserted into their chin.
The Bumi or Bume people are also known as the Nyangatom. They live south of the Omo National Park, but occasionally move to the lower regions if food or water is scarce. Known to be fierce fighters, they are often at war with Hamer and Karo tribes. Different from other tribes, the Bumi tribesmen hunt crocodiles using harpoons and a canoe.Scarification is practiced by both men and women in the tribe. The women do it to beautify themselves and the men to signify a kill. Both sexes wear a lot of multi colored necklaces and may also have a lower lip plug. The tribe practices both agriculture and cattle herding. Flood waters must recede along the river’s banks before they will plant their crops. Beehives are smoked out by the Bumi and they gorge themselves with the honey.
Well known cotton weavers, the Dorze tribe were once warriors. They are famous for their cotton woven cloths and beehive huts. The Dorze people live in large communities north of Addis Abada. They cultivate their own food and prevent erosion by terracing along the mountainside. In their farmlands, the Dorze will grow highland cereals. They also grow spices, vegetables, fruits and tobacco within their compound. Women of the Dorze tribe have most of the responsibility in the family. They must take care of any children and all of the house choirs. The women are also responsible for cooking, spinning cotton and collecting firewood. Male tribal members spend most of their time on the farm or building huts. Sometimes you will find them weaving material to use for different things. The Dorze people wear colourful toga robes called shammas. They are very popular throughout Ethiopia. A Dorze hut is made up of hard wood poles, woven bamboo, enset and other natural materials. It can stand two stories tall and last up to 80 years. Inside the main hut, you will find a fire place, a seating area and bedrooms. Smaller huts can include guest houses, a workshop, a kitchen and even a cattle shed. When termites attack the hut, the Dorze can just remove it from its foundation and relocate it. This allows the home to last much longer, but every move shortens the height of the hut.
Also well known as the hamar or hammer, they are one of the most known tribes in Soutern Ethiopia. They inhabit the territory east of the Omo River and have villages in Turmi and Dimeka. Tourists visit the hamer hoping to see a traditional leaping ceremony (the jumping of bulls). They are cattle herders and practice agriculture. Very colorful bracelets and beads are worn in their hair and around their waists and arms. The practice of body modification is used by cutting themselves and packing the wound with ash and charcoal. Some of the women wear circular wedge necklaces indicating that they are married. Men paint themselves with white chalk to prepare for a ceremony. Hair ornaments worn by the men indicate a previous kill of an enemy or animal. The traditional bull jumping is a rite of passage for men coming of age. The event last three days and involves only castrated cattle. The man must jump over a line of 10 to 30 bulls four times completey nude without falling. If this task is complete, the man joins the ranks of the Maza. Maza are other men that have successfully completed the bull jumping event. During this ceremony, the women of the tribe provoke the maza to whip them on their bare backs. This is extrememly painful and causes severe scaring on the women. The scars are a symbol of devotion to the men and are encourged by the tribe. Night dancing called evangadi is also a hamer tradition.The Hammers have unique huts that are made up of mud, wood and straw.
The Karo or Kara is a small tribe with an estimated population between 1,000 and 3,000. They are closely related to the Kwegu tribe. They live along the east banks of the Omo River in southern Ethiopia and practice flood retreat cultivation. The crops that are grown by them are sorghum, maize and beans. Only small cattle are kept because of the tsetse flies. These flies are large and consume the blood of vertebrate animals.Like many of the tribes in the Omo, they paint their bodies and faces with white chalk to prepare for a ceremony. The chalk is mixed with yellow rock, red iron ore and charoal to make its color. Face masks are worn at times and they have clay hair buns with feathers in them. Red clay mixed with butter is put into their hair and clothing is made from animal skin. The women scar their chest believing it makes them beautiful. The men’s scars represent an enemy or dangerous animal killed. They also wear clay hair buns which symbol a kill. A man in the tribe can have as many wives as he wants, but must be able to afford them. Most men will only marry two or three.
The Konso live in an isolated region of the basalt hills. The area is made up of hard rocky slopes. A Konso village maybe fortified by a stone wall used as a defensive measure. Their village is located on hilltops and is split up into communities, with each community having a main hut. In order to enter a Konso village, you must pass through a gate and a series of alleys. These paths are part of it’s security system, keeping the village difficult to access.They are mixed agriculturists using their dry and infertile lands to grow crops. Animal dung is used to fertilize the grounds and their most important crop is the sorghum. Sorghum is used as a flour and to make local beer. Grains, beans, cotton, corn and coffee are also grown by the Konso people.The erection of stones and poles is part of the Konso tradition. A generation pole is raised every 18 years, marking the start of a new generation. The age of a village can be determined by how many poles are standing. Carved wooden statues are also used to mark the grave of a famous Konso tribal member. The marker, called a Waga is placed above the grave and smaller statues are then placed around the larger one representing his wives and conquered enemies. Although the Konso people have many customs dating back hundreds of years, it is not uncommon for them to be seen wearing western clothing. As newer generations grow,their traditional attire has