How to say tribe in Amharic

Ethiopia, part 3: land of cultures, peoples and tribes

It is estimated that around 77 million people live in Ethiopia. The population consists of 120 different ethnic groups who speak a total of more than 80 languages. The official language is Amharic. Ethiopia is the oldest country in Africa that was independent except for the occupation by Mussolini's troops (1935-1941) and it is the only African country that was never colonized. A country with a lot of history. There are peoples here who belong to ancient ethnic groups who still live almost like their ancestors. This is probably one of the reasons why the Italian historian described Ethiopia in 1937 as a "Museum of the Nations". Today we introduce you to a few of these peoples from southern Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, a mosaic of peoples

The market town of Jinka is considered the gateway to one of the world's oldest regions, the lower Omo Valley, which is often referred to as the cradle of mankind. The fossils Omo 1 and Omo 2 were found here, probably around 195,000 years old and assigned to Homo Sapiens. In the Omo Valley in Ethiopia, there are so many cultures living in such a small area as nowhere else. Hunters, gatherers, settled farmers and semi-nomads live here. Many of them are still alive as they were thousands of years ago. The Lower Omo Valley has been a World Heritage Site since 1980. However, the legacy is threatened: Foreign investors are just as much a threat as the Gibe III dam, one of the largest dams in the world. It prevents flooding in the rainy season, which destroys the natural rhythm of indigenous peoples from temporary cultivation and animal husbandry.

Wolaytta and Alaba

On the way to Arba Minch one comes through the land of Wolaytta (also: Wolaita) and Alaba. The Wolaytta once had their own kingdom, but it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Ethiopia in the 19th century.
With the farmers of the Alaba, there are walls of houses to discover, which are decorated with beautiful and colorful murals. In this traditional art, the houses are painted on the outside and inside. The style is unique, the motifs come from everyday life, religion or show the wishes, dreams or preferences of the respective homeowner.

The Ari, Tsemay and Woito

If you want to go to Jinka - and everyone who wants to get to know the tribes and peoples of Ethiopia wants that - you will also pass the lively weekly market in Key Afer. Several tribes trade here. On the roadsides you can see men and women of the Ari and Woito, as well as the shepherds of the Tsemay and Bena with their herds of cattle. Almost all of the 10,000 or so tsemays live in the Omo river valley. They live mainly from agriculture and animal husbandry.
Like the Alaba, the Ari are also known for painting their house walls. For the extraordinary works of art, the women use colors from fruits, earth, wood ash and cow dung. While the men grow corn, grain and coffee, among other things, the women take care of decorating the house or making pottery. The approximately 120,000 Ari live in the Mago National Park in the Omo Valley.

The Dorze

The Dorze live in the Chencha Mountains, from where you have a wonderful view of Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya. In the past they were hunters and warriors, today they grow the “false banana” (Enset), operate beekeeping, pottery and are famous for their colorful woven fabrics, which can be found all over the country. Another special feature are the beehive-like huts that look like the face of an elephant from the front. Around 28,000 people are now counted among the Dorze people.

The Konso

During a visit to a Konso village you will learn about the traditional terrace farming of this people. The Konso are masterful terrace builders and, with this technique, have adapted excellently to the barreness and aridity of the landscape. The colorful cotton clothing of the Konso is also wonderful to look at.

The Mursi

The Mursi, an estimated 7,500 people and formerly a warlike people, live deep in the south of Ethiopia. They are probably one of the most famous peoples from the Omo Valley. This is mainly due to the famous lip plates, the so-called "dhebi" of the women of this tribe. The plates in the lower lips are an ideal of beauty, the larger the plate, the more beautiful and richer the woman is. Older women use the younger clay plate for shaping. The earlobes are often decorated in a similar way. Most of the Mursi work as farmers and ranchers.

Ethiopia, Museum of the Peoples: The Mursi tribe in the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia

The diamond

With an estimated 1,000 to 3,000 members, the Karo people are the smallest tribe in Ethiopia. The body painting of the people are often true works of art. They live in three main villages above the Omo in a remote area and do trade, livestock farming, alluvial agriculture, fishing and beekeeping there. In addition to the body painting, the men's body and head decorations are also noticeable - the “clay hood” is a status symbol for men.

The Hamer

The women of the Hamers are known for their unusual hairstyle. They wear their hair in short, thin braids that are rubbed with a paste of red clay and butter. The clothing consists of leather aprons and countless pearl necklaces. The Hamers are a shepherd people who mainly raise goats and cattle. A special feature is the so-called bull jumping ceremony: In this initiation ritual, young men jump over the backs of several bulls in order to be considered marriageable and adult.

Get to know the different peoples of the south of Ethiopia - on our guided small group tour through northern Ethiopia and southern Ethiopia you will get to know numerous tribes in the Omo Valley, visit villages and markets.
You discover on this Travel all the highlights of the country, from the historical landmarks and natural wonders of the north to the unique tribes and peoples of the Omo Valley.

Our Ethiopia range:
In the first part of our Ethiopia series, we have already taken you to the holy cities of Axum and Lalibela, where there are rock churches and steles to be discovered. And in the second part we showed you the natural wonders of Ethiopia, Lake Tana, the waterfalls of the Blue Nile and the roof of Africa, the Simien Mountains.
More parts to come ... stay tuned!
In the fourth part you will find out everything you need to know about entering Ethiopia and lots of tips and information for your trip to Ethiopia.