For our three week Christmas 2003 break
we traveled to Ethiopia. We have wanted to visit Ethiopia for a long
time, so we were thrilled to finally get there.We
were amazed at the diversity of the country and the friendliness
of the people.
For our first ten days, we hooked up with another American
couple, Nori and Scott. (Check out their great website www.e-xpeditions.com!).
We rented a 4 wheel drive with a driver and headed for the
Omo Valley, which is well known for a multitude of
very exotic tribes.
reached the first tribe (the Mursi) after 2 long days of
The Mursi are infamously aggressive and almost caused
us to abort
Omo tour! When we reached the Mursi village about a 100 villagers
surrounded our car. Many of the men had AK-47s—the
various tribes in the Omo Valley still regularly fight over
livestock. We had hired an armed guard to come with us and
protect us- but he seemed more scared than us! We could barely
get out of
the car and when we did the people were quite aggressive
about getting money from us, as they squeezing the girls’ boobs
(?) and rifled through our pockets! Fifteen minutes was all
we fled! However, we got some pretty wild pictures- the Mursi
are famous for their enormous lower lip disks.
In addition to the Mursi we visited several other tribes
including the Hamer, the Karo, the Galeb and the Dorze,
who were all
much more friendly. All of the tribes could be distinguished
based on things like, the kinds of decorative body scarification
they used, their wild and beautiful hair dos, the kinds
of jewelry they wore or their clothing. In all cases
topless, the men wore some kind of short skirt and they
sometimes carried spears! Clothing was either colorful
fabrics or more
often, animal skins. Jewelry was very creative and depending
on the tribe,
often made from scraps of things such as watch bands and
bullet shells. In all of the tribes villages were simple
of huts with
no plastics or metal to be seen. Each tribe built their
own distinctive kind of hut. For the most part the
living in a stone-age
type of environment. This is the real deal!
of the tribes were very friendly and let us walk around their
One day we visited
the small Dominka market, which is probably the coolest
market that we’ve ever seen – completely traditional with
a melting pot of different tribes bartering their goods.
In the Omo, we also visited Nechisar National Park next
to the Rift Valley lakes. We saw zebras, gazelles,
monkeys, baboons and a cooked
lizard that we pulled out of Nori’s breakfast pastry!
Everywhere we went we experienced ‘farangi frenzy’. ‘Farangi’ is
the Amharic word for ‘foreigner’. When we stopped anywhere
in Ethiopia, we would often quickly draw a large crowd of people,
mostly kids, who would sometimes ask for things “I Love You,
Give me Pen!”, or simply gawk at us.
the Omo, Robyn and I traveled North to the towns of Gondor
and Lalibela. The north consists
of the Ethiopian ‘highlands’.
It’s very beautiful countryside, though dotted with broken,
rusted army tanks that are a reminder of the frequent wars of the
last 15 years. Gondor was the capital of Ethiopia during around the
16th century and has a number of interesting castles- it’s
a trip to see medieval castle’s in Africa.
A painful 17 hour bus ride brought us to Lalibela,
the main pilgrimage site for Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians. The town, a village
of 8000, is sometimes called ‘Ethiopia’s Petra’ because
it has multiple churches that were hewn into the ground out of rock
in the 12th century. The town’s churches are named after those
in Jerusalem, additionally they have their very own Mount Sinai and
River Jordan, among other places - the town serves as an alternative
to making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This being Ethiopia, the town
has almost no tourists, but is packed with pilgrims. It’s
an incredibly colorful place.
Another painful 2 day bus ride (why do all the
buses in Ethiopia leave at 6am?) put us back
in Addis Ababa
we paid our
respects to 4.5 million year old Lucy (she doesn’t
look bad for her age) and caught a flight back
The local drink is 'tej', a honey liquor. It's good stuff, although we had to
pick an ant out of this batch!
Dominka market in the Omo valley. This was a fantastic small market
where locals came to trade. Traders simply sat in small groups on
the ground and waited for customers. This was probably the most colorful
market we've ever been to.