Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.

Borana People – Jan 17


I woke up early this morning to a bathroom with water all over the floor. Leigh and I had no idea how it happened but Leigh just threw a couple of rugs from the room into the bathroom so we could walk on the floor. The shower was pretty cold but I managed.

I felt much better when I left our room and walked around the grounds before breakfast and watched the sunrise, which was lovely.


The buffet breakfast included a lot of peanut butter.

As we drove off on our way to Dilla, Leigh noticed many new electrical poles and wires. Ayu told us that The Chinese helped to build dams on the Omo River about 5 years ago and Ethiopia sells electricity to Kenya.

There were some Barana people selling charcoal on the road so we stopped to take a photo. They were asking for too many burr so we just left.

It was hard to catch photos of these fowl because they were moving too fast.

The red soil and Acacia trees were beautiful in spite of the electric wires.

We stopped to buy gasoline in Yabelo but it was not available. The gas station was very crowded especially with motorcycles. Apparently the problem is that Afar and Somali people who live in Ethiopia are fighting so the roads which are used to transport the oil from the port are blocked.

Again, eagle-eyed Aya noticed birds. One is some type of owl perched on the electric wires.

We were so surprised when Leigh pulled out another bar of dark chocolate with almonds that she had brought from home. We all enjoyed a bit of it.

We stopped at a village of Borana (also called Boran) people.

  • They are the largest single ethnic group in Ethiopia.
  • They speak a dialect of the Oromo language that is distinct enough to be difficult for other Oromo speakers to understand.
  • The Borana people are notable for their historic gadaa political system.
    • Under gadaa, every eight years, the Oromo would choose by consensus an Abbaa Bokkuu responsible for justice, peace, judicial and ritual processes, an Abbaa Duulaa responsible as the war leader, an Abbaa Sa’aa responsible as the leader for cows, and other positions.
  • They follow their traditional religions or (Ethiopian Orthodox) Christianity and Islam.

The Borana decorate a part of their house with paint.

This is a chicken coop and a place to keep their goats.

We all entered one of the houses and sat on low stools. The Borana have a different way of using their coffee beans. We watched the woman of the house sauté coffee beans in oil.

She would have used butter but this has been a very dry period. Then she mixed sugar and water together in a container and when the beans were ready, she poured the sugared water over the beans.

They offered each of us a coffee bean to eat.

It was quite good.  Roasting beans in this way is a daily practice. It is a social activity and families share the beans with each other.

I tried to take a few photos of people inside the house even though it was very dark.

Being around the children in the community was a lot of fun. At first they were very reluctant to shake hands with me or even touch me. Then some of them would put out their hand and then pull it back. Eventually a few of them actually shook my hand. We were all laughing. A couple of them reached out and felt the skin on my arm

A women in the group asked me to take her photo (for birr – of course)

The woman who made the coffee beans came outside and I took a photo of her.

Then the first woman produced a beaded necklace that she had created.   After some negotiation (with Ayu’s help) I purchased it. It is really quite lovely. I am not sure if I will wear it at home.  Perhaps I will hang it on the wall.

On the way back to the road we passed more camels. One was actually nursing her baby.

The termite hills also grow very tall in this area. Ayu said they only do that when it is very dry. Sue said that it is to keep the temperature for the eggs even.

We drove past an area where the Guji people live.  They produce coffee and minerals. They mine (platinum and gold) in traditional ways but it is the big companies that took over their land with no compensation or taxes paid. The owners are part of the government so nothing can be done.

Ayu was able to find gasoline in Bule Hora. If we had turned down one of the roads leading out of Bule Hora, we would have  found very large refugee camps housing people from Somalia. There is no work for them. They are being supported by the UN, African Nations, and the Ethiopian Government. Some of the refugees have also gone to Kenya.

Bule Hora is a coffee center. This is harvest time and it lasts for 3 to 4 months. The government sends people to cut, harvest, and prepare coffee. Then the farmers bring their coffee to Bule Hora for processing. There were many trucks being loaded with the processes coffee. The government controls all the exports. The farm workers earn 15 birr a day which is about $ .30 and the farmers sadly only earn $1 for 1 kilo of coffee. Tonight we learned from some UN workers that there may be a farm coalition that is educating a portion of the farm workers children.

Ayu found a restaurant for us to have lunch. They put incense on the tables.

We ordered goat for and it was quite tasty. I watched the waitresses bringing raw meat to some tables. Here is a photo of the men preparing the raw meat and the meat we ate.

As we were leaving we saw this decorated Bajaj.  What fun.

On our way to Dilla we passed this building where they process coffee,

We also passed an area where the people grow and sell a great deal of false banana leaves which are transported all the way to Addis.

The check-points in this area (which always let us pass through easily) are not checking for guns. They are actually checking for coffee. You man not take coffee out of the area.

These women are working to separate the coffee beans. They take out the broken or black ones.

As we passed through a town which I think was Yirgacheffe, Ayu believes that they produce some of the best coffee in the world.

In every town in Ethiopia and even between towns there are things being sold along the road. These rolled mats are made from bamboo and are used for covering floors, roofs and making fences.

This is the first time I have seen boys playing table tennis.

Ayu stopped for me to get a photo of the bags of charcoal which are covered with plant material so the charcoal doesn’t fall out when the lift them.  He said that producing charcoal is very bad because of the effects of deforestation.  We saw bags of charcoal all along the roads in this area.

These piles of material are part of the teff plant that is used to make mattresses. So teff has more uses than just making injera.  This material is covered with nylon. We saw mattresses being sold in many towns and it Addis Ababa.  Ayu slept on a bed made of this when he was a child.

We continue to be impressed with Ayu’s driving. The roads were especially dusty today. We learned that some Arab bankers are creating roads and that they last longer than the Chinese ones. Going through all of the construction with a lot of other traffic was difficult. We, of course, had to keep our windows closed much of the time.

The last photo I took today is of a hooded Vulture. I just can’t seem to stop photographing every bird I see.

We finally arrived in Dilla to stay at the Delight Hotel. Jane and I have a lovely corner room with a balcony but the views are not that great.  It was just nice to have so much space.

Sue, Jane, and I enjoyed the dinner in the dining room. A very interesting thing happened at dinner. A man and a woman came over to our table to talk with us. They hadn’t seen white tourists in this town and they thought that perhaps we were coffee brokers.  The man was working for the UN and the woman was working for a peace making team from the European Union. They had been sitting with a group of other workers.. Apparently there has been a major conflict recently between two rival groups. This caused many tens of thousands of people to be forced to leave their tribal communities because it has become too dangerous to stay in their villages.  The refugee camps for these people are not far from Dilla. The teams are here to support the refugees and to try to negotiate peace. The man told us that last week there were two groups of fully armed soldier, which passed through Dilla. One was the EDF (Ethiopian Defense Forces)and the other was OLF (Oromia Liberation Forces).  There is obviously much more going on in Ethiopia that we had known.

When we finished dinner, two of the other workers ask us we would take a photo with one of them. We thought it was fun to stand around the statue of the cook.

It has, indeed, been a very interesting day.

Author: Nancy Panitch

Traveling has been a passion of Nancy Panitch's life and she loves seeing how people in other cultures live. Her travels have taken her to many places within the United States, Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa. Being around people inspires her and she has much gratitude for the kindred Souls that are joining together with her in body, mind, and heart. She moved from Chicago to Portland, Oregon in 1982. It was one of the best decisions of her life. While in Portland she stays very, VERY busy. She volunteers (Inter-Religious Action Network, Human Rights Council, & ushering for various theaters); attends a Unitarian Universalist church; goes hiking with groups (Cascade Prime Timers & Trails Club of Oregon) and also with individual friends. Book groups, movie group, and bridge groups occupy her time as well. Her quiet activities include yoga, knitting, Sudoku, and reading. She enjoys all of these activities, but making time to see her wonderful 4 grandchildren takes priority over it all. She is happy to share this blog and hopes to encourage others to travel.

4 thoughts on “Borana People – Jan 17

  1. This is my much anticipated the Panitch National Geographic read. I will be disappointed when it ends.


  2. The coffee bean sharing was so lovely! They seem to have so little, but are willing to share with others always!


  3. I knew that you were putting a lot of effort into this blog, but I am even more impressed as I read it. I await the book!


  4. Yes with very interesting photos too. I had no idea there were so many tribes in Ethiopia. I guess I just thought of the people living in the major cities and didn’t know there were so many people living in the desert.


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