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Omo Valley - Ethiopia Culture Route

Ethiopia presents a remarkable mosaic of humanity. It is the haven of more than 80 ethnic groups. The Omo river region of south western Ethiopia is home to several well known tribes where immense ethnic groups have settled down on this valley. In contrast, while the northern kingdoms of Ethiopia had considerable contacts with Egypt, ancient Greece, and the Middle East three millennia ago, the tribes of the south had little contact even with the rest of Ethiopia until a few decades ago. Additionally, the region is affluent in marvelous scenery, wild life, and birds. 

The most renowned of the region’s many animist tribes are the Mursi. They are famed for their practice of inserting large clay plates behind the lower lips by their women. 

The most important event in the life of a Hamer male is the bull –jumping ceremony –a rite of passage and a pre-condition for marriage. A row of eight to ten bulls is formed and the naked initiate must traverse the row, leaping from one animal to the next –four times. If successful, his male relatives then flog the backs of his female relatives, who see this as a chance to prove loyalty and valor. 

The Konso people are very famous of stone terracing systems a practice that helps them prevent erosion on the steep hillsides. On these terraces the Konso raise sorghum, millet, corn, peas and sunflowers.  They are also well-regarded artisans. Konso has recently been registered by UNESCO as one of the world heritage site. 

Best known for their creative body paintings are the Karo. For dances and festivals, they decorate themselves with paints made from white chalk, black charcoal, yellow stone, red iron ore, and plant oils. Women wear shell necklaces, beaded belts, and brass or copper bracelets. Scarification, common for both sexes, is done for beautification and in the case of men, to signify the killing of enemies or beg game. Men and women also have pierced holes in their lower lips, in to which they insert various adornments.