Though the landscape of Ethiopia is varied and fascinating, it is the people of this country that make it one of the most amazing places on Earth. Ethiopia, like most countries in Africa , is a multi-ethnic state. Although the original physical differences between the major ethnic groups have been blurred by centers of intermarriage, but, the people remain distinct and unique.
Ethnic differences may also be observed from the great variety of languages spoken I the country of which there are an astonishing eighty-three, with 200 dialects. These can be broken in to four main groups: Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic and Nilo –Saharan.
The Semitic languages of Ethiopia are related to both Hebrew and Arabic . The Ethiopian language of this family are derived from Gee’ez , the language of the ancient axumite kingdom . Ge’ez was also the language of the country’s literature prior to the mid-nineteenth century, as well as parts of most present –day church services.
Ethiopia’s Semitic languages are today spoken in the south and east of Addis Ababa: Guraginya, used by the Gurage in a cluster of areas to the south of the capital, and Adarinya, a tongue current only with in the old walled city of Harar and used by the Adare, also known as Harare, people . The Cushitic languages, which are less closely related than the Semitic are found mainly in the south of the country. The most important tongue this group in Afan Oromo. It is used in a wide stretch of country including Welega and parts of lllibabor in the west, wollo in the north shewa and Arsi in the centre, Bale and sidamo in the south and Harerge in the east.
The Omotic group of languages, which comprise considerably fewer speakers than either the Semitic or the Cushitic, are spoken in the south –West of the country, mainly in GamoGofa. They have been given the name in recent years because they are spoken in the general area of the Omo River. Dress of the christen highland peasantry was made almost entirely of white cotton cloth.
Since the time of Tewodros, men have worn long, in many cases jodhpur-like trousers, a fightly fitting shirt, and a shamma or loose wrap, often with coloured stripes at either end; women wear a full skirt surmounted by a shamma.
Noblemen and women used to wear silk cloaks, which in the case of people of the highest status were decorated with silver or even gold, while warriors would sport short lion-skin capes. In cold mountainous areas men and women might wear a burous or black woolen cape, and shepherd boys a woven wollen cap.
The Muslims of Harar by contrast wore much more colorful dress. The men were often dressed in short style trousers covered with a coloured wrap; the women wear fine dresses usually of red, purple, of black. The lowland Somali and afar wore long, often brightly coloured cotton wraps, while some of the cattle-herders in the Lake District had some clothing made of animal skins.
Traditional dress may still be seen throughout much of the countryside, especially in areas far removed from towns in more recent years. Modern or ‘European’ clothing is being worn in most urban areas. National dress, however, is widely worn for festivals, particularly by women.
The lower Omo is home to a remarkable mix of small, Contrasting ethnic groups including the Burne but not limited to the Karo, Geleb, Bodi, Mursi, Surma, Arbore, and the Hamer, just to express their artistic impulses. Both the Surma and the Karo, for example, are experts at body painting, using clays and locally available vegetable pigments to trace fantastic patterns on each other’s faces, chests, arms, and legs . These designs have no special symbolic significance but are created purely for fun and aesthetic effect, each artist vying to outdo his fellows.
Cicatrizing, on the other hand, which is also popular amongst most of the peoples of the lower Omo, does contain a number of specific symbolic messages. For example, Mursi warriors carve deep crescent incisions kon their arms to represent each enemhy that they have killed in battle. Elaborate hairstyle are another form of personal adornment. Hamer women wear their hair in dense ringlets smeared with mud and clarified butter and topped off with a head-dress featuring obligation of gleaming aluminium;geleb and Karo men sculpt and shave their hair in to extravagant shapes, with special ochre ’caps’of hair usually containing several ostrich feathers. Jewellery tends to be simple but striking-colorful necklaces, chunky metal wristlets and armlets, shiny nails appended to skirts, multiople earrings, and a variety of other jewellery.
The insertion of wooden and terracotta discs in to the ear lobes is a widespread custom, and mursi and surma women also progressively split and stre3tch their lower lips to make room for similar discs there, too. Though these ‘lip plates’ may appear bizarre to outsiders, the Mursi and surma regard them as signs of beauty –generally speaking, the larger the lip plate the more desirable the wearer. At certain seasons, a visitor may be lucky to witness these colorful and dramatic traditional ceremonies, periodically young men of both Mursi and the surma tribes engage in ritual stick fighting. These duels are conducted with the utmost vigour since the winners, and those judged to have shown the greatest bravery, are much admired by nbile girls.
Another important event, seen by few tourists, is the Hamer’jumping of the bull’ ceremony. In this ritle of passage, youths are required to jump on to the backs of a line of thirty or forty cattle, run the whole length of this formidable obstacle, jump down kon to the other side and then repeat the entire procedure three more times with out falling. Finally they walk out of the arena through a special gatewayl, after which they are judged to have passed form boyhood to man hood.
A trip along the wild and wonderful Omo River offers many opportunities to meet the colourful local people, as well as an experience such indigenous the country .
The Borenal. Probably the most traditional of all ethiopia’s Oromo groups, are semi nomadic pastoralists whose lives revolve exclusively around the million or so head of cattle they own. They live to the east of the Konso on the low hot plains of the southern savannah. They work all day, year round in the long dry season just to keep their vast herds watered every three days. There is a distinctive art that goes in to calculatingt precisely the number of men needed to haul the water, and the number of cattle a well support. This could be as many as 2,500.
The famous wells are an extraordinary feature of the culture. Approached by along cutting, slanting down to ten meters’ below the surface of the earth, just wide enough for two columns of livestock to pass each other is the top of the well and the drinking troughs. Every two meters’ down there is a stage where the men and women toss the water in giraffe hide buckets to the person above them. The deepest well recorded has eighteen stages.
The Borena people have semi-permanent villages or family groups of huts that are attached to the same well. the houses they live in, more permanent than the true nomadic hut, are made of grass kover a wooden frame work, often with the lower part of the walls reinforced with a screen of branches. They remain surprisingly cool in the heat of the day. Around the houses are the cattle enclosures, built as protection against lions.
Talll, kthin-lipped, and graceful with elegant manners, the Borena are essentially peaceful people who believe that angry words are dangerous and violence is not a concept they comprehend.The Borena and the Konso are just two of the fascinating peoples who live in eh wildernesses of southern Ethiopia. Many more in habit the remote Omo valley.
To the south of konso and yabello the area is inhabited by the knoso people. Except for trading with the neighboring borena for salt or cowries shells, outside influence had, until recently, virtually passed by the konso . a pagan society, they erect wooden totems replete with phallic symbols over the graves of the dead and have numerous cults based around the breeding and veneration of serpents. The konso have adopted a complex age- grading system similar to that of the Oromo. Sacred drums, symbolizing peace and harmony, are circulated from village to village according to a fixed cycle and are beaten in rituals that mark the transition from one age – grade to the next.
The cornerstone of Konso culture, however, is a highly specialized and successful a gricultral economy . through rerracing butteressed with stone, enables the people who live in the Konso region to extract a productive living. The stone shoring employed in these extensive and intricate terraces is echoed in the dry-stone walls that surround most Konso villages and that protect low-lying fields from flash floods and mrauding catle, this stone is also used for grinding grain, sharpening knives and spears, making anvils and constructing dams.it is as much apart of Konso life as soil.
This material is also evident in the beautiful small stone and wood houses, tightly packed with roofs touching and overlapping in their crowded componnds. The konso are experts on wood of all kinds and know the durability of the massive timbers that keep houses standing for eighty years or more. Inside each house there is a short wooden entrance tunnel. Any visitor would have to enter on their hands and kness. In this process, the occupant determines whether it is friend or foe.
The konso men build the houses, spin and weave, and carve wood, and ivory. The women do gardening and, surprisingly, build stone walls. The konso men build men build the houses, spin and weave, and carvewood, and ivory. The women do gardening and , surprisingly, build stone walls. Konso industriousness finds its vehicle in a cooperative ethic that enables farmers to enlist the support of communal work jkparties from their own and surrounding villages to build walls and terraces. This cooperative ethic enables groups to sow and harvest the principal crops-sorghum, potatoes, and cotton. Konso weaving, also a communal activity is highly productive and the thick cotton blankets ( called bulukas) for which this region is famous are much prized throughout ethiopoa.
Not all of Konso liofe is dominated by hard work. Evening is a jparticularly a time of relaxation, when young men and women sing and dance. In recent years, the all-weather road-and various missions passing through Konso, the people are no longer as isolated. One sigh of assimilation occasionally seen is Konso ploughing their fields with oxen, as is done in other parts of Ethiopia. The konso also meet up with the neighboring Borena to trade for salt or cowries shells.
Twenty-six kilometress to the west of Arba Minch is the old village of Chencha. Picturesque houses, accompanied by the magnificent back drop of the lakes in the rift far below, give glimpses of ancient Ethiopia.
The nhabitants of tehis village are known as the dorze, one of the many small segments of the great Orneqp language grouop of southern Ethiopia. Once warriors, they have now turned to farming and weaving to earn aliving. Their success in the field of weaving has been phenomenal and the dorze name is synonymouns with the best in Woven cotton cloth. Chencha, in fact, is famous for the fine cotton gab;bis or shawls that can be bought there.
Each amazing Dorze bamboo house has its own small garden surrounded by ellset, beds of spices and cabbage, and tobacco (the dorze are passionate smokers). The main house is a tall-up to twelve metres ( 39 feet)- bee-hived shaped building withanaristomcratic’nose:which forms a reception room for guests and is usually furnished with two benches.
The vaulted celling and walls of the spacious and airy houses are covered with an elegant thatch of enset to form a smooth and steep un broken dome. When a Dorze house starts to rot or gets eaten by termites, the house is dug up . Bamboo is sewnround it to maintain its shape, and neighbors rush to help carry it. With poles poked horizontally through the building, men, women, and children all join in the effort-with a fine complement of signing-to move it to its new site. A house lasts for about forty years and it then abandoned.
Skodo stands on eh border between gamo Gofa, sidamo. And Kaffa-one of Ethiopia;s main coffee-growing regions, in this part of Ethiopia east of the Omo river. Hundreds of stone monoliths bear witness to the long time habitation of this area by early humans. The people who live here today have a very indigenous look. Many people have light brown complexion with traditional Ethiopian features and are typicallyshort stature.
The Wolayta belong to the vast Ometo language group. The people are traditionally Muslim or Christian religion, although traces of the old pagon religions still survive in variojs places. This is combined with ancient near-forgotten Christian traditions difficult to distinguish. Celebrated in temples hewn from the rock are similar to those found in Tigray.
The Wolayta cultivate most of the cereal crops as well as cotton, enset 9 fake banana), and tobacco. Their huts are large and beehive –hsaped, built in the midst of gardens, with one or more ostrich eggs perched a top the roof as fertility symbols, viewed from inside, the plaited structure and concentric rings of the roof frame work appear wonderfully intricate and neat. These astonishingly roomy houses are divided into several compartments by sc reens of bamboo. The cattle, sheep, and goals who share the house are not only safe from predators but provide a form jof ‘central heating’ on chillier nights.
The Sidama people who inhabit the area around Awassa play a major role in Ethiopia’s Coffee export trade but are especially known for their beautiful beehive-shaped woven houses. Bamboo is used for the frame work, which is then covered with houses. . Bamboo is used for the framework, which is then covered with grass and enset (fake banand0 leaves as the rainy season approaches. a small front porch shades the entrance. Inside, the family utilizes the right side of the house and the livestock utilizes the left.
Furniture is simple, usually just wooden bedsteads and stools. Near the main hut, a fence of woven bamboo or euphorbia surrounds the vegetable plot. The main hut, a fence of woven bamboo or euphorbia surrounds the vegetable plot. The men build the huts and grow vegetables surrounds the vegetable polt. The men build the huts and grow vegetables surrounds the vegetable polt. The men build the huts and grow vegetab;les with their wives; help, and the women go to market, clean , and cook.
About one kilometer north of Gondar limits, lays the tiny village of Wolleka, which was formerly inhabited by Judaic Ethiopians. The Bete Israel practice the ancient form of juddism, which was the dominant religion of north-western Ethiopia for thousands of years. After the coming of Christianity and its adoption as the state religion, leaders from the north-east gradually converted most of the Bele Israel.\recent research has shown that it may have been bete isra;el artisans who physically built the Gondor castles and provided any of the other artifacts that supported the Gondaring culture.
After amass evacuation to Israel in 1991 , only a few individual still live in Ethiopia. Examples of their artifact, earthen ware pots and figurines made by their Christion neighbours who have remained behind can still be found at the village or in Gondar itself.The falasha figurines made of black or red piottery are indigenous to the region and in grea t demand. Visitors can also see the old synagogue and former Bete Isra’el homes.
The Oromo are divided in to six main groups and about 200 subgroups, in each of which you may find slight variations on the dominant cultural structure. The gadda system-or government by age –groups-is universal throughout the groups.
The men wear traditional Ethiopian white togas, called away, and in addition to clothing made of cotton .The women often wear leather ,decorating the skins with embroidered beadwork, and lavish beads, copper, and heavy brass jewellery. The Arsi Oromo are true herdsmen. Ownership of cattle is a status symbol: a man who owns more than a thousand is entitled to wear a crownl.
Oromo houses are built by the men, although the women help with the thatcfhing. There are three main types of dwelling: the first two are more common, circular structures. Their main difference is in the shape of the roof, one being steeply domed, the other latter with and overgang, the third type is also domed, but the rafters are planted in the ground and form both the walls and the roof.
The Tigray people who inhabit the region around the semienhighlands speak a Semitic language called Tigray, originating from Ge’ez, the ancient tongue of Ethiopia. Though they have experienced frequent and sever famine conditions, they remain hardy and resili8ent farmers wherever soil conditions permit.
Rural Tigray houses are usually square and stone built, though some are round, with flat roofs of wood covered with sod and wide overhanging eaves. Outside, stone steps lead to the roof where the family goats are kept at night . some times there are added towers and grain stores.
Speakers of the official tongue, Amharic, the Amhara are traditionally farmers. In rural areas, the Amhara house consists of a circular wall of thin poles stuck into the ground , with cross withes laced to them that are then plastered with mixture of mud, dung and teff straw, which is applied in layers, when it hardens, it provides a weatherproof barrier, which lasts for many years. However, many houses, especially in the mountain, are stone built . The conical thatched roof is supported by a central pole. There are small storage areas for cooking utensils, and the main area serves as sleeping and living quarters.