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Lower Omo Valley

The tribes of this part of southern Ethiopia are one of the most popular tourist attraction in the country. The most visited are the Mursi, with their famous lip plates, and the Hamer, of the bull jumping ceremony, but the region is also inhabited by the Ari, the Banna, the Bumi, the Karo and the Surma. The base to visit the villages from is Jinka, a town of 18,000 people in the hills above the valley.

A base for visiting the Lower Omo, Konso is also the main town of the Konso people and their fascinating culture. Easily reachable villages, such as Machekie, display the famous Wagas – wood statues erected in honour of Konso warriors after their death. You will also see the uniquely constructed hillside houses, which include a tunnel as an entrance to protect against intruders.

The Mursi

The most famous of the tribes, the pastoralist Mursi are notorious for the lip plates worn by the female population. At the age of around 20, the clay plates are inserted in a slit between the lower lip and the jaw and can be up to 15cm in diameter. The larger the lip plate, the greater the value of the woman when she is married. The stick fighting, Donga, between men competing for the right to marry is also a sight worth seeing. The most visited villages are along the banks of the Mago River in MagoNational Park.

The Hamer
The approximately 50,000 strong Hamer are famous for the women’s hairstyle, which is done using ochre and resin, and also for the jumping of the bulls ceremony – a rite of passage for young men. The ceremony starts with lots of face painting and then a walk to an open space to wish the bull jumper luck in his life. Then the potential suitor gets naked and starts running across the bulls. If he manages to do so without falling off he is ready to become a man and his father can then choose him a bride. Until he proposes, which can take months, he has to keep on the skin worn during the ceremony and can only drink milk and eat honey and meat.