June 06, 2015 • 0 Comments

It was a hot May day in southern Ethiopia with a few clouds moving across the blue sky.


Our group was driving on two off-road vehicles through the plains of Omo valley towards Mago National park. At the park border, we have to make a stop and take two armed bodyguards with us. Both were carrying a machine gun.


Mursi is a peculiar tribe and security is on the first place.


Soon we see the first tribal people. At the beginning only a few, mostly children. All naked and painted with white and brown colors. They wink at us in hopes to get photographed for a small amount of money. Fascinated with these little guys, we make our first stop.




Obviously, the money is not an unknown concept here. Our guide is saying it would take a much longer drive behind the Omo river to meet genuine people who are not familiar with money yet. How long will it take untill money reaches everyone in Ethiopia he can't say. 


After some drive, we approach the first village. Villagers see us coming and disappear in their dwellings. In a moment we see them coming back, one after the other, now with all their knick knack and freshly painted. Obviously they want to be photographed for money.


Mursi speak their own language. But they have already learned some basic numbers and we hear them calling at us amounts like 'five birrs', 'ten birrs'. This is how much they request for a photo. An okay sign and they are ready to pose. But - one should not try to photograph or film anyone in a Mursi village without their consent, otherwise an offensive reaction is sure to come. Mursi are proud and truculent people, and very good at throwing stones :) 



After an hour, we decide to walk back to our vehicles and take a short drive to another Mursi village. Here things are different. The head of the village approaches us and starts speaking english flawlessly. It turns out that he got a state grant and studied in Australia. After his studies, he decided to get back to his village and support his tribal people. At last, we can ask some questions about everyday life of Mursi people, their problems and believes. This was some fascinating talk!





We see how mursi women put their lip plate in and out. We see how they make their scars. We learn how they do the painting and what they consider being beautiful. After many pictures later the moment comes for us to leave. 


With roads being built in southern Ethiopia and civilization coming closer to the Mago National Park and the lands where Mursi people live, more and more tourists will come to the Omo valley. And soon these aboriginal cultures will not be able to live their current lives and coming generations will not be able to see what we just saw today. Progress can not be stopped. 


This truly was an adventure of my lifetime. 



More images from my trip to Ethiopia can be found  here.




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