Ethiopia to Cape Town 2013

8 months - with Gitane - Toyota Hiace 4x4 van

The tribes of Ethiopia

January 4, 2014  —  Ethiopia 2

Mago National Park - the Mursis

Mago National Park - Ethiopia

Of all the tribe of Ethiopia, the Mursis are possibly the most fascinating. They are famous for the lip plate that women wear on the lower lip. Surprisingly, the lip plate can reach up to 18 cm. It gives them a very peculiar look. The ear lobes are also decorated with a disk in a similar way to some other African Tribes (for example, the Maasai in East Africa).

Several persons describe a visit with the Mursis as a somewhat horrible experience since it is about taking pictures for a certain amount of money (each photo is counted). On our side, we have enjoyed the encounter. We visited a village without going through a tour operator, thus we were only the two of us in the village. Yes, as soon as you arrive, the Mursis come very close to you and grab your hand or arm asking that you take a photo or trying to sell you a trinket. I think it was a bit of a hassle, but at the same time, I really liked the 'business' side. The Mursis are very clever and they know what to do to get your attention and even to provoke you.

It is possible that such visits change these tribes toward a society that is dependent on tourism and they may stop their ancestral activities. On my side, I think that all the people have a right to change toward another way of life. Bringing money against a photo may allow them to keep part of their culture in a world where money is needed and where their survival is not easy. The Mursis are mostly confined in the Mago National Park and the climate is such that they suffer from a lack of water and food from time to time.

Mago National Park - Ethiopia

A few theories exist to explain this peculiar practice. Some say that the lip plate was used to turn off the slavers and to protect the woman during a raid. The lip plate could also be a means to turn away the evil spirits that enter through the mouth. Finally, it is quite possible that the lip plate has only an esthetic value (it is the most legitimate theory).

Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
Mago National Park - Ethiopia
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Turmi market - the Hamers

Turmi - Ethiopia

The Hamers are another fascinating tribe of Ethiopia. They seem to be resisting any external influences and keep their ancient traditions.

The way women are dressed is the most obvious aspect of this tribe. They dress with cow's skins and are very proud of their look. Please note the hair of men and women.

Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
Turmi - Ethiopia
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Key Afar Market - Tsemay, Hamer, Ari et Bana

In Ethiopia, there are many other tribes that kept their traditions. Since I am not sure what the tribe of each person is, I only list the tribes we have met: Tsemay, Hamer, Ari and Bana.

Key Afar - Ethiopia
Key Afar - Ethiopia
Key Afar - Ethiopia
Key Afar - Ethiopia
Key Afar - Ethiopia
Key Afar - Ethiopia