The lower Omo valley is home to a remarkable mix of small, but interesting and contrasting ethnic groups, literally fantastic. Overland cruise from the green, urban highlands in to the low-lying plains of Omo valley feels like a journey not merely through space but also through time, as one overland the vast and thinly populated badlands that divides the mountainous center of Ethiopia from its counterpart in Kenya.
Omo valley is as close as one can come and overland to an Africa untouched land, the culturally diverse, immaculately colorful and defiantly traditionalist aggro pastoralist, who inhabit the region seem to occupy a physical and psychic landscape little different to that of their nomadic ancestor, this is Africa as it once was, or as some might still imagine it to be, and its mere existence is at once wonderful and scarcely incredible.
Omo valley, the cultural Garden of Eden and a living museum, four of Africa’s major linguistic groups are represented, including the so called Omotic speakers, a language group endemic to lower Omo valley. All in all, depending on where one draws the lines, as two dozen of different tribes occupy Omo valley, some numbering tens of thousands and others no more than two thousand, each of them culturally unique.
The most renowned of Nilo-Saharan language speakers are the Mursi and Surma, famed for practicing of inserting large clay plates in their lower lips of the women. The other important groups of the of Omo valley include the Hamer, Nyangatom, Karo, Dasenech, Arbore, Benna, Ari and Bodi, whose cultures and quirks of adornment, body scaring and painting.
Omo valley is there to show you the colorful and dramatic traditional ceremonies including the “Bull Jumping” the ceremony take place by the Hamer youngster the taste to pass from the childhood to early adulthood and getting a chance to choose the right girl for marriage, the colorful Hamer’s youngsters traditional dance called “Evangadi” as well as the ritual take place by the Surma and Mursi tribe called “Donga”, stick fight in which two contestants painted in white chalk paste pummel each other violently with heavily two meter long poles, as the Hamer do the bull jumping, are fascinating and admirable to see. The overland cruise along the rift valley region south to the Omo valley offers an opportunity to cross and explore the untouched and real Africa topography along with its colorful inhabitants, unique way of life and vibrant weekly tribal market days.
Other Cultural Attraction
Relatively large, Arbore is far more rustic and unaffected than many similarly size towns in south Omo, in common with their linguistically and culturally affiliated Tsemai neighbors, the Arbore migrated to their present homeland from Konso perhaps two...read more
Ari women are famous for their pottery which they sell to support their families. The Ari inhabits the northern border of Mago National park in southwestern Ethiopia. Ari villages have neat compounds in fertile and scenic land with Coffee plantations. They...read more
This tribe is part of the Hamer - Bashada cultural unit. The Benna reside in the higher grounds east of the Mago National Park, and their population is estimated at around 35,000 people. They are primarily agriculturalists; however, Benna men also hunt for...read more
The Bodi are pastoralists living close the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia. The Bodi are of Nilo-sahran stock and pastoral background. Although they do cultivate sorghum along the banks of the Omo River, their culture is very much cattle centered....read more
The Dasenech, alternatively known as the Galeb or Reshiat, range across a large territory following the western banks of the Omo River to Lake Turkana. Local oral tradition, reinforced by that of the Turkana, recounts that the Dasenech migrated to their...read more
The Karo, which number only about 3,000 people mainly live on the practice of flood retreat cultivation on the banks of the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia. The Karo excel in face and body painting, practiced in preparation of their dances and ceremonies, they...read more
The Hamer Tribe
The Hamer people are primarily pastoralists who occupy the land southeast of the Mago National Park and beyond, stretching into the Murle Controlled Hunting Area. The Hammer territory also stretches from the lower Omo region in the west to Chew Bahir in...read more
This often death defying ceremonial practice exists within the Hamer culture. Considered a rite of passage, the jumping of the bulls is a task that a Hamer boy must fulfill in order to pass from childhood to early adulthood. Several days before the...read more
The Mursi people are primarily pastoralists. They reside in the western regions of the Mago National Park, and move between the lower Tama Steppe, where they spend the wet season, and the Mursi Hills sector of the Park, where they spend the dry season....read more
Also known as Bume, the Nyangatom live south of Omo National park and occasionally migrate in to the lower regions of the park when water or grazing is scarce. Numbering around 6,000-7,000 in population, the Bumi are agro pastoralists, relying on cattle...read more
Also known as the Suri people inhabit the region spanning from the western edges of Omo National Park, over the headwaters of the Kibish River, and into the hills around Maji. The whole nation numbers around 40,000 and their language belongs to the East...read more
Made famous by anthropologists, old photos and recent National Geographic magazines, the custom of wearing lip plates is one of the distinct features of the women of the Surma and Mursi tribes in southern Ethiopia. At an early age, a small incision is made...read more
Also known as cicatrisation, this practice is often viewed with distaste or alarm by members of the outside world; however, scarification is actually an ancient, revered custom, practiced by tribal peoples all over the world, and specifically by male and...read more
Tsemai the dominant people of Weito village on the Arba Minch – Konso – Jinka or Turmi road, are amongst the least known ethnic groups of Ethiopia, estimated to total some 6000 people. Their territory extends along the western bank of Weito River, known in...read more
Tribes of the Omo Valley
Ari women are famous for their pottery which they sell to support their families. The Ari inhabits the northern border of Mago National park in southwestern Ethiopia. Ari villages have neat compounds in fertile and scenic land with Coffee plantations. They have large livestock herds and produce large quantities of honey. The women wear skirts from the banana like tree, called Enset.read more