Omo Valley

Ethno tour to South Ethiopia

We invite you to real ethnographic adventure tn the country of the lost tribes. These tribes are still yet to be reached by the civilization and they are the last standing guards over the ancient customs and national traditions. The ethno-tour to the distant and obscure lands of the Southern Ethiopia will introduce you to the hidden tribes of Karo, Hamar, Ari, Dassenech, Nyangatom, Borena, Bena, Dorze, Arbore, Mursi and others and will allow you to shoot pictures that will remain forever in your memory.

Ethiopia is a country of discoveries, bright and mysterious. But above all this is a country of unforgettable stories, peoples, cultures and traditions, many of which go back for thousands of years. Everybody who arrives to Ethiopia if not simply taking a plane; this is also ​a travel through time. As part of our tour we will get to the most interesting and hard-to-reach areas of the Southern Ethiopia, concentrating on shooting of the local tribes, each of which has its own unique features, like skin painted with the warlike ornaments, jewelry made of aircraft wreckage, huge saucers in lips and ears, etc. You can’t find such experiences anywhere else in the world, and make sure to see it before civilization has not penetrates these hidden corners of the world.

We will try to witness as many tribal rituals as we can, meet the elders, learn some Amharic, and find out many fascinating facts from the history of Ethiopia’s both parts, their traditions and beliefs.

Ethiopia is a country that one must visit at least once in a lifetime. And when you’re there, it’s impossible not to fall in love.


Tour program

Day 1

Day 1Group meeting at the international airport in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, and the start of our journey.

We will head straight to the hotel in Addis Ababa to relax after the flight and wait for the dawn, where we can sleep and have breakfast.
In the morning we will start our journey to the South of the country and will drive about 450 kilometers, starting on one of the main routes of central Ethiopia and finishing in the South, approaching the lost tribes of the Omo Valley.

On this day we will meet the first tribe – the tribe Dorze. This tribe is one of the few in the region that belongs to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and has been famous throughout the country for its products from cotton for thousands of years. Living quite high in the mountains, people of this tribe learned to build houses in the shape of elephants, weave products from natural cotton, bake ceramics and make an incredible honey vodka. In one of the tribe’s villages we will meet its inhabitants and under the guidance of a local guide Makkonen will get acquainted with the life and traditions of the Dorze tribe.
Then we will continue our journey and arrive to the town Arba Minch, which means “40 springs”. A beautiful lodge will await us here, along with a rest after a long road and a preparation for the next day.

Accommodation in Addis-Ababa: Addis Ababa Adot-Tina Hotel
Lodging in Arbaminch: Arbaminch Paradise Lodge or equivalent
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 2

Day 2Today we are going to Jinka, one of the most remote areas of Southern Ethiopia. There’s an excellent ethnographic museum in Jinka, picturesque grocery market, and most importantly, tribes Ari and Mursi live not far from here.

So, after leaving the lodge we will hit the road (250 km) in the direction of Jinka. On this day we will visit Konso tribe, as well as the weekly market, visited by the tribes of Konso, Ben, Ari and occasionally Mursi. So, Konso tribe is another relatively developed tribe of South Ethiopia, who along with Dorze are famous for their cotton products, but more importantly, this is the first tribe that introduced a principle of terrace farming in Africa. Terraces on hillsides of Konso tribe are one of the most picturesque sights in Ethiopia and the history and traditions of the tribe are full of amazing beliefs and rituals. For example, this tribe practices mummification of the dead and is the only one who honors the cult of the dead. We will have a detailed tour among the people of this beautiful tribe, dedicated to the rituals and customs of Konso, and we can say that from this point we will begin to dive into the real, forsaken Ethiopia.

After lunch we will continue our way to Jinka and will stop at the weekly market. As a rule, the markets of South Ethiopia are the most vivid and colorful spectacle. Representatives of various tribes, such as Ari, Konso and Bena, come to this market to sell and buy coffee beans, wheat, tobacco or bags; children flock, come to take a look at others and show themselves. In general, these places are a dream of every ethnography buff.
After the market we will go to Jinka and will have a pre-dinner stroll along the main street of the town, past the market, retail shops, local cinemas, among bulls and their beaters and will finally internalise the meaning of the word “faranji.”

Accommodation: Jinka Resort Hotel or similar
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3

Day 3On this day we will visit one of the most famous tribes of Southern Ethiopia, the Omo Valley, the Mursi tribe. In general, our entire day will be devoted to the Mursi tribe. This tribe is known in the Western world mainly for their women and their tradition of piercing the lower lip – young girls pierce their lips, inserting small ceramic washers. After a period of time the size of the washer increases until it reaches the size of a decent plate. Mursi tribe also differs from other tribes of the region by their height, unusual headdresses for women and an excellent knowledge of military affairs.

Each of the tribes has its own specialization in the Omo Valley: Hamer tribe owns a large number of livestock, Bashada tribe produces ceramics, Ari – grows coffee, Nyangatom – sells weapons, Karo (or Kara) – is fishing. Thus, Mursi tribe is known both for their livestock and fighting spirit. First of all, coming to visit Mursi, we will have to learn a few words in the language of the tribe, then shake hands with all the elders, take a dozen children up in our arms and get thoroughly dirty (why and by what – let it remain a surprise).
After talking with Mursi and visiting one of the most beautiful panoramas of the valley, we will return to Jinka. This evening we will hold another seminar on ethnography and history of the Omo Valley, as well as analyze the differences between the tribes we have already seen and what led to the striking difference between them.
Tired but happy, we will go to sleep.

Accommodation: Jinka Resort Hotel or similar
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4

Day 4Starting early in the morning we will go to meet the Ari tribe, who, after Mursi, will seem as angels descended from heaven. The happiest children in the world will await us in the Ari village, along with the most benevolent adults, as well as an interesting story about the traditions of the tribe and workshops on cooking injera – a local national dish. At the same time, we will learn how to forge a machete, make a ceramic dish, knit a skirt from banana straw and much more.
Then, after bidding Ari farewell, we will go to Turmi – the fatherland of one of the most beautiful, powerful and wealthy tribes in the region, the Hamer tribe.
On the way to Turmi we will visit one of the most popular weekly markets in Ethiopia – Kay Afar, visited by the tribes Ari and Ben. A large bustling market, Kay Afar attracts hundreds of buyers and merchants, each of whom is trying to get the best deal. Some buy garlic, some sell maize, some come only to drink local beer and talk with friends. Here we will take a closer look at the Ben tribe, the tribe, whose people you can recognize easily by their beaded jewelry – large, massive and very bright.
After Kay Afar market we will go to Turmi for dinner, rest and get acquainted with the Hamer tribe.
One of the most famous African rituals is the ritual of “jumping on the bulls” – a kind of rite of passage for a young man. Having run successfully on the backs of bulls, the young man gets the right to get married and his first cow as a gift from his father. Jumping on the bulls is preceded by the rite of beating women with long sticks, during which Hamer women are having fun, laugh and require continuation of the strikes. We will try to catch this rare, bloody and extremely emotional rite during one of our nights in Turmi.

Accommodation: Turmi Buska Lodge or similar
Meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 5

Day 5

Translation of the name of the Karo tribe from the Hamer tribe’s language means “eaters of fish.” Karo (or Kara) people live on the banks of the Omo River and enjoy not only incredible sweeping views, but also all of the river’s treasures. Majority of the Omo tribes don’t eat fish, preferring to raise cattle, but Karo is an exception and they are periodically bantered over this. Karo is one of a few tribes that adorn themselves with flowers, which in combination with Kalashnikov rifles are a picture that deserves attention in itself. We will spend a few hours in the village of Karo and will head to the next tribe in the afternoon – the Nyangatom tribe.

Before visiting the Nyangatom tribe, a real adventure awaits us, namely, crossing the River Omo in ancient local canoes, carved in tree trunks. There’s still no bridge across the River Omo and these boats are the only way to get to the other side (you can, of course, get there by swimming, but it’s not recommended for white people).
Nyangatom tribe is one of the largest in Southern Ethiopia, which owns both a large number of livestock and territories. Bordering South Sudan, this tribe also engages in arms trafficking and, in general, is known as a bad ass. Nyangatom have an interesting tradition of differentiating women through jewelry and clothing, as well as distinctive style of building tents.

Lodging: Turmi Buska Lodge or similar
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6

Day 6This day we will spend around Turmi, the city, where there are not only colorful bazaars, but also a home to the Hamer tribe. It is one of the largest and most influential tribes in the region, and also Hamer people are incredibly beautiful. Bright, stylish decorations, proportional features of women’s faces and an excellent physical training make them almost invulnerable in the face of the enemy. Hamer tribe is one of the last tribes in the world, which continues to lead the old way of life with a little difference from the one that their ancestors led thousands of years ago.
We will visit several villages of the tribe and get acquainted with their inhabitants, learn to dance local dances and listen to the history and tradition of the tribe that is so incredible, that it will be unforgettable.

Since this day is devoted entirely to the Hamer tribe, we decided to dedicate the night to them as well. That’s why today we won’t spend the night at the lodge, but directly in one of the villages. We’ll bring special tents, mattresses, equipment, tables, chairs, food and water, in general, everything you need for a comfortable accommodation in the village of the Hamer tribe. You won’t forget this night ever in your life and I am sure that it will be the most incredible of all that you have experienced. Evening campfire, close contact with people of the tribe and observing their ordinary everyday life, in general, pure ethnography.

Lodging: Camp in the Hammer Village
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7

Day 7Today we’re going to Omorate to visit the tribe Dassanech. This morning we’ll have to cross in boats the river Omo again which is feeding and giving water to all the families of the region. The tribe Dassanech is considered one of the poorest tribes of the Omo Valley – they have no livestock like Nyangatom and no fertile land like Ari. All that this tribe owns is a sun-scorched stone desert. Sometimes in the summer, when temperatures in the area can reach 50 degrees and heat the desert, women of the Dassanech tribe have to wear a big rock to stand on not to interrupt the hard work. Here, women are required to do all the hard work – from building houses to cooking, raising children, etc. Dassanech men are occupied by two things: stock grazing and protection of villages.

Women of the Dassanech tribe are easily recognizable thanks to their massive headdresses, where in curls and bends you can find literally everything from garbage thrown by tourists, corkscrews, pieces of clay jars to fruits, beads and more.
After the Dassanech tribe we will visit the tribe Arbore. This tribe is known among all the tribes of the Omo Valley as having special spiritual power. Representatives of those tribes who cannot solve their problems themselves come specifically to Arbore spiritual leaders with gifts. Arbore shamans perform incredible mystical rituals, they conjure and pray to their gods, helping the people of Ben or Hamar.

Here we will talk about the status of women in the tribes of Southern Ethiopia, tradition of married life, traditions associated with childbirth, circumcision, funerals, and many others that are integral attribute of the life of the Omo Valley tribes.
At the end of the day we will go towards Yabello, staying overnight at the lodge on the territory of already familiar Konso tribe.

Lodging: Konso Kanta Lodge
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8

Day 8On this day we will meet the tribe Borena, a bright and beautiful tribe of the Omo Valley. Borena is a large tribe, currently divided between two countries – Ethiopia and Kenya. They are known for their jewelry made of beads and metal, as well as the traditional extraction of water in times of drought. Since there’s no permanent source of water in the region where the tribe Borena lives and the river Omo is too far, Borana tribe organizes the so-called “singing wells” in times of drought – people, chained together and armed with rags and cans, extract water practically dipping it out of the mud of a dried up riverbed and wells dug up in it.
Also, the Borena tribe people are involved in salt production and produce entire camel caravans loaded with salt blocks. Depending on the weather, we will try to catch both, the process of water extraction and production of salt.

Accommodations: Yabello Mobile Motel or similar
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9

Day 9Today we begin our return to the “great civilization”. Our path will lie toward the city Hawassa (290 km). On our way we will pass the usual Ethiopian villages and landscapes, stopping from time to time to communicate with the locals, buy fruits from roadside vendors and relax in comfortable jeeps.

One might say that Hawassa is a city of high culture. There are great hotels, nightclubs and restaurants here. In the evening after dinner we will go out for a cup of tea or a glass of wine in one of the local cultural clubs, whose program is designed for the local population.

Lodging: Hawassa Tadesse Enjory Hotel
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 10

Day 10We will leave our hotel in Hawassa in the morning and head to Addis Ababa. Along the way we’ll stop by the lake Hawassa where local fishermen bring fresh fish every morning. Here, on the spontaneous fish market, the fish is cleaned, gutted, sold and even be cooked. For those who visited eastern fish markets it will be interesting to compare the way they are done in Ethiopia.

Upon our arrival to the capital we will go to the Mercato market, built by Italians back in the 20th century. Here, on a huge bustling bazaar, you can buy everything from shoes that don’t match to the finest works of ethnic forging, spices, coffee, textiles, etc.
We will celebrate our last night in Ethiopia in a great restaurant in Addis Ababa, will say goodbye to our Ethiopian team and head to the airport.
All good things come to an end but impressions last forever!

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Route of the tour

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