Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.


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Last Day in Addis Ababa – January 20

Today was our last day in Addis Ababa.  I packed up all of my stuff and left in in Jane’s and Sue’s room.  We had a relaxing breakfast.  Then Ayu picked up Sue and me. First he took us back to the shop where we stopped yesterday (I forgot to write about it because I didn’t buy anything there yesterday) and I purchased a large map of Ethiopia.

Our plan was to go to the Kechene neighborhood to visit with the Rabbi at Bet Selam Synagogue and to see the Jewish weavers and potters from the area.   Ayu called the Rabbi again and found out that he thought we were coming on the 21st.  But we thought we would try anyway.  He drove us to the building where he thought the synagogue might have been.

 

The people around the building told us that nobody was there.  Today was a Sunday.  Ayu had a conversation with a man who insisted that we could not see anybody.  We were very disappointed.

I read articles about this Jewish community in Addis Ababa and the potters and weavers who are a part of this community before we came to Ethiopia. I was really hoping to at least see where the potters and weavers work.  This is a link to one of the articles I read.  https://kulanu.org/communities/ethiopia/secret-jewish-communities/

Ayu put so much effort into this experience in the Kechene neighborhood and we were very disappointed that it didn’t happen.

The Kechene neighborhood is very close to where Ayu’s family lives so Ayu took Sue and me to meet his Mom.  What an absolute treat.  We met some of his nieces, nephews, and in-laws.

His mom served treats

and made coffee for us.

We asked Ayu if he had brought any other tourists to his home and he said, “No.”  We were the first.  It may have been because we were already driving to a place that was close to his home.

When we were driving through Addis Ababa we noticed that there were some people who were still celebrating Timket.  One of the streets was block off because it was filled with people. Ayu explained that they were from one of the Churches of St. Michael.  This day was a celebration of St. Michael so wherever there is a Church of St. Michael in Ethiopia, they keep the arc at the celebration for 2 days instead of one day.  These people were returning the Arc to the church.

Ayu dropped Sue and I off at the hotel and took Leigh to the airport  She had to fly back to Nairobi where she had been before coming to Ethiopia.

Sue, Jane, and relaxed in the lobby of the Jupiter.   We took a short walk exploring the local grocery store and looking for a pharmacy (which we didn’t find) to purchase more cough medicine.  Jane noticed this sign.

It sure looks like the Starbucks logo.  The strange part is that every Ethiopian we met makes Ethiopian coffee at home.

When Ayu  returned, he drove Sue and I to a pharmacy and to buy Ethiopian roasted coffee beans to bring home as gifts for our children.

Ayu marked my new with the approximate route of our 24 day drive.  He said there were several side roads that were not on the map.  Taking the time to carefully mark the map is just another example of the extraordinary care he gave to us.

Sue, Jane, Ayu, and I had dinner together in the restaurant at the Jupiter Hotel.  We were glad to have more time to visit with Ayu before it was time to actually leave.

We left for the airport for our 10:30 flight (Addis to Dublin to Chicago).  Again, the Ethiopian Airlines paid absolutely no attention to the size or weight of our luggage.  We were happy that weather in Chicago was better than 2 days ago when they cancelled over 1000 flights.

Leigh’s flight was delayed for over 3 hours in Amsterdam so we actually all arrived in Portland at about the same time.

It took almost a week to get my brain back onto Pacific Time Zone.

Ethiopia has been an amazing adventure that exceeded my expectations.  The long drives, rough roads, and days of breathing dust were more than we expected but it was all worth it. We are both privileged to have the means to travel and lucky that we are still young enough to do this type of trip.  Thank you to Vast Ethiopia Tours, Ayu, and the warm, welcoming, smiling Ethiopian people.


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More Timket – Back to Addis Ababa – Jan 19

Ayu picked us up at 6:00 to go back to for the morning Timket ceremonies.  Some people had stayed all night and were participating in the morning prayers.  Again, I loved hearing all of the chanting.  I noticed this woman walking across the field in our direction.

She sat down on the ground and several people gave pieces of bread to her.  Then I noticed that people were also feeding bread to some of the boys who were at the ceremony.

The boys were standing near us and when I looked down I noticed that one of them only had only one shoe.

Although we had seen children without shoes before, something about taking this photo made me very sad.  The woman stood up and slowly approached us.  I was happy I had some birr in my pocket to give to her.

We stayed to listen to the prayers for about an hour and I took a few more photos of the people.

 

 

I learned that we were actually there just for the morning prayers.  The remainder of the Timket ceremony was going to take place later but we had to leave so Ayu could drive us back to Addis Ababa.

If we had been able to stay we would have seen the priests baptizing the Tabot and then baptizing all of the people.  In Gondor the people would actually be jumping into the pool and the priest would be spraying water on all of the other people.  For people who live near a river, they would use the water from the river.  After everybody is baptized, the Tabot will be  returned to the church with all the people following, dancing, and chanting.  At night, there will be a feast.

But, alas, we needed to go  back to Aragesh Lodge for breakfast and to pick up our luggage.  Before eating breakfast we saw some monkeys in the trees.

They sure have long tails.

When we drove back through Yirgalem we saw the people who were still celebrating Timket.  As we drove through the country we passed several places where people were still celebrating. We actually saw one of the priests using a pitcher to Baptize the people.

At one point we drove through a Rastafarian village.

As we slowly drove through the area one area that had a lot of traffic,  we saw this man who was talking to each vehicle as they passed him.

In one place the people were in the streets returning the Tabot to the church and the road was really blocked.  It is impossible to describe the way that Ayu manipulated the Land Cruiser from one side of the road to the other to get through the people and the traffic that was coming in the other direction.

Here we are driving on the side of the road.

I could hardly believe that we were going to squeeze between these two vehicles.

But we made.it.  I have never been in a traffic jam like this one before.

I certainly would not have wanted to be in a Bajaj, on a motorcycle, or driving a cart through this.

And the dust – wow – the dust.  We have had dust before but this tops it all.  It sort of reminded me of BurningMan during the beginning of a sand storm.

Yea for Leigh who brought out the last of her candy bars.

Each town we passed was still be celebrating.

Of course Ayu pointed out these Abyssinian Ground Hornby.  They don’t fly very high.

We again drove past all of those green houses where they grow roses.  There seemed to be miles of them.

We stopped for lunch in Zumway where I photographed these yellow birds.

During lunch we saw a television set that was broadcasting Timket from various places.  We could see the people in the pool in Gondar.  We were quite amused when we saw a priest actually using a garden hose in one town to baptize all of the people.  Timket certainly varies from place to place.

Ayu found us a place that was growing strawberries.  We stopped and purchased a couple of cartons to take back to the Jupiter hotel and have for breakfast in the morning and Leigh bought strawberry jam.

As we drove further, eagle-eyed Ayu spotted a Saddle-billed stork.

We arrived back in Addis Ababa and checked back into the Jupiter Hotel.  We had to wait for them them switch our rooms because they didn’t give us rooms with 2 beds in each room.  That gave us only 30 minutes to shower and get ready for the Ethiopian Folk Dancing dinner.  We had a traditional injera dinner and I followed tradition by feeding Jane, Sue, and Leigh each a bite of food.  The dances were fun to watch …

…for a while.  We were all pretty tired and decided to call it a night by about 9:00.  We still had to repack our suitcases so we would be ready to leave tomorrow.  It was hard to believe that this trip was almost over.


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On to Yirgalem and Timket – Jan 18

Jane was the first to take a shower this morning. In addition to the cold water, the shower leaked and flooded the entire floor. Oh well.

The man from the UN was eating breakfast this morning. Although he had a meeting to attend, he gave me a bit more information about the tribes that were fighting but I didn’t get the names clearly. He told me that in addition to the fighting between tribes, there are people who are not happy that the current Prime Minister is not favoring them. That is very interesting because almost everybody who talked with us told us how very happy they were with the new Prime Minister.  I learned that those who are unhappy want to separate from Ethiopia. Hearing this made me sad. I clearly do not have enough information about the tribal issues in Ethiopia.

On the to Yirgalem we saw some houses that had false banana leaves all around the bottom of the house.

We really loved the flowers all around this home.

We drove through a town where some of the homes had very intricate gates.  By the time I got my camera ready, we had passed the fanciest of them.  I think Ayu said we were going through the area of Sidama (or Sudima) People. They decorate the front of their homes with stones.

This home has a gate, but it is not nearly as fancy as the ones we passed at the beginning of this town.

It was a very bumpy, rough road going through the town and our internal organs were again being massaged. Although we had to keep the windows closed, I appreciated that we had to drive slowly so I could see more.

I tried to get a photo of the mattresses that are mad with the teff.

At one point we drove through a town where we saw military forces with trucks that had guns on the top and officers with rifles walking through town. They may have had court orders to search houses – perhaps for guns.  Of course, I did not try to take and photos.  Ayu said that the government tries to educate the people who may be arrested.

It wasn’t a very long drive and we arrived at the Aragesh Lodge.  What a beautiful place.  We wished we had driven straight through to this place yesterday, but if we had, we would not have met the UN and European Union representatives.  I would advise future travelers to go straight through to Aragesh Lodge and spend 2 nights here.

We were served a delicious welcome drink and headed on to our wonderful hut.

The weaving displayed in the reception area and the one in Sue’s and my room were beautiful.  We both  wished we could buy a weaving like this one.

I walked around and visited the kitchen where they were preparing the food.

Sue, Jane, Leigh, and I ate lunch outside.  What an absolute treat.  Aragesh Lodge has their own garden and they wash all of the vegetables in purified water.  I was so thrilled to be eating this beautiful, delicious, fresh salad – the first one in a few weeks. What an absolute treat.

After lunch I wandered around the grounds. Gregory, the owner, invited me to sit down for a cup of coffee or tea.  I asked for tea and he had them make fresh ginger tea for me. His son, Andreas, joined us.  Tea made with fresh ginger was sure a welcome treat.

Ayu came back to get us and we drove into town for the Timket celebration.  The celebration began in the afternoon of January 18th.  The ceremony began with the priests in the town carrying the Tabot which is a model of the Ark of the Covenant, reverently wrapped in silk cloth to a ritual site where celebrations take place. In some towns it will be carried to a nearby stream. The Tabot is a representation of Jesus as the Messiah when he came to the Jordan River for Baptism.

When we arrived, Ayu said that the people would be walking along with the priests.  I asked how long the walk would be and if I could walk with them.  He said it would take about 90 minutes and that he would wait for me with the land cruiser at the end where they were bringing the Tabot.  Jane and Sue decided to walk with me and Leigh went with Ayu to the end.

Sue and I lost track of Jane but all was well.  The people were very welcoming.  I took so many photos of the people as we walked along with the crowd. These are some of my favorites.  I just loved being allowed to walk with them.

The people were chanting as they walk and somebody was drumming.

It was so festive.  Some children wore white headdresses and carried umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun.

One of the drummers was a woman.

I just kept taking photos.

All along the route, groups of people were running along laying out a red carpet before the priests that were carrying the Tabot.

I lost count of how many red carpets were being carried.. There were what seemed like endless lines of people laying out the carpet.

One of the most relevant symbols of the festival is colorful embroidered umbrellas that protect the sacred Tabot and the priests who are carrying the Tabot. I just read that Tabot is a Ge’ez word referring to a replica of the Tablets of Law, onto which the Biblical Ten Commandments were inscribed, used in the practices of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Tabot can also refer to a replica of the Ark of the Covenant.

Men and women in robes were singing all along the route.

This little boy carrying empty water bottles never left my side the entire time we were walking

The mothers and children loved having me take their photos and showing the photos to them.

Sue and I reached the end, found Jane, Leigh and Ayu.  The crowd of people were still walking behind us.  I took one panoramic as they were entering the ritual site.where the priest had brought the Tabot before we drove back to the Aragesh Lodge.

What a wonderful experience being able to walk along with all of the people. I feel so privileged. I know that the Timket celebrations  in places like Gondor. Lalibela and Addis Ababa are much more elaborate, but I think it was much more intimate for us to experience this in the small town of Yirgalem.

We returned to Aragesh Lodge for a relaxing evening.  The lodge set up  a coffee ceremony for us.

As they were preparing the coffee, we noticed that a man was feeding some vultures in the field below us.  They feed them the leftover food from the kitchen.

We found out that one of the the reasons he was feeding the vultures was to bring the Hyena from the area up closer to us.

A bit hokey  – but fun.  We met some people from Israel at the coffee ceremony.  Even though we have participated in several coffee ceremonies on this trip, I took some photos here.

While she was preparing the coffee, they brought us popcorn.  I know this is silly, but I loved getting popcorn to eat.

We all went to dinner together and waited for the buffet dinner.  Both Jane and Leigh decided that it was taking too long.  Sue and I stayed for a delicious dinner.  Aragesh Lodge has sure been a wonderful place to stay.


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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.


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Arbore People and Konzo People – Jan 16

This morning Ayu said we have an adventure today. He must have meant the roads. I began writing about the roads on the first day of this trip and I think we have become so used to them that continual bouncing just seemed commonplace. Still we are just amazed at how Ayu knows which road to take when presented with a few choices and there are no signs or discernible landmarks. Today Susan said that these roads make our forest service roads look like highways. We were driving above a dry riverbed and the rocks and dips were hard to believe. Ayu said that they even drive these roads in the raining season which is almost unbelievable. I tried to take a couple of photos but we seem to have just come out of a dip when I click the camera and you can’t see the drop-offs over the side or the depth of the dip.

After we passed the most difficult parts of the road but still passing through places where we would think we would not be seeing any people, we passed some Hamar people.  Ayu said they were either going for water or possibly some were going to visit family but not to take photos.

In addition to keeping us on the road, Ayu is so excellent at spotting birds along the road.  He said that this one is a Kori Bustard and we actually saw two together.  They are the largest flying birds that are native to Africa.

 

Then we passed a stork-like bird.

Ayu found a guide for us and we visited the Arbore People who are also known as Ulde.  They live in the hot plains area.  When the Arbore first migrated to this area they stayed around the river where it was green.

These are  their houses.  The women can build a house out of papyrus in one day.


This papyrus is ready to be used to build a house.

There is a flat area in front of the house where people can rest and stay cool.

We entered one of these areas and sat with the family while our guide talked with us.

Then we went inside the portion of the house where they cook and eat.  Inside the house there is a room for children, an area for guests, and a kitchen area where the parents sleep.

There was a fire burning in the kitchen area.

Maize and sorghum were hanging in kitchen.

The area was extremely dry and the cattle seemed very skinny. This is the place where they keep their livestock to protect them from Hyenas.

Here are some facts about the Arbore mostly read in A Guide to the Ethnic Groups Omo Valley Southern Ethiopia by Minalu Adem and some from learned from our guide.

  • These people are pastoralists. Yet, livestock have high economic and social value for the Arbore. In times of drought the Arbore temporarily move their cattle to the neighboring Tsemay and Borena where they have peaceful and cooperative relations.
  • They practice a slash and burn shifting cultivation method of agriculture, which is dependent upon the flooding of the Woito River and the seasonal rains.
  • Girls and women are adorned with beads and bracelets. They dress in skirts made from skin uniquely designed and decorated with beads and pieces of metal.
  • Unmarried girls shave their hair clean and put a black piece of cloth on top of their head for the sun protection. Abore men wrap a white piece of cloth on their heads.
  • Commonly when a boy reaches marriage age, his father will choose a wife for him and will send four elders to the bride’s family. The elders take with them a stick (called a sheniqur) and the abdominal fat of a slaughtered goat. If the bride’s family accepts the marriage, they will take the abdominal fat and place it on their shoulder. The two families will then meet and find a date for the wedding. The groom will prepare honey, coffee, and tobacco for the bride wealth.
  • On the wedding day, both families contribute four cattle, which will be slaughtered for a feast. Relatives and friends eat, drink, sing and dance. In the afternoon, the bride will be circumcised and taken to the house of the groom’s family. A sheep is slaughtered and the tail is cooked and eaten by the bride and the groom. Then their hands are tied together with a piece of skin.
  • When an adult male dies, all his jewelry is buried with him. Relatives will put butter and milk in his mouth with a new gourd and the corpse is covered with a new cloth and sheepskin. Then the relatives will ask the dead person to bless his cattle. Finally, four individuals will take the corpse and bury it. Following this ritual, it is believed that his cattle will be safe.
  • A few days after he is buried, a ritual called awal will follow. A goat will be slaughtered and one of the un-skinned legs will be placed on the grave of the dead person. The grave will be covered with abdominal fate. The eldest son will then inherit his father’s wealth and must promise to distribute his father’s cattle to his paternal uncles and younger brothers. A feast is prepared for relatives and friends.
  • At the beginning of the rainy season, when new grass starts to grow, the Arbore prepare a ritual to bless the new grass so that it is healthy for their cattle.  All the cattle are gathered in one place for the occasion.  Four wooden gates will be prepared and the cattle are herded through.  Participants then drink coffee with butter and milk.  Finally, boys and girls dance and a blessing by the elders and the kawet (spiritual leader) follows.
  • Among the many ethnic groups, the Arbore are considered a peaceful people and live in relative harmony with the other ethnic groups. This has been attributed to the mutual sharing of their resources with other groups, intermarriage between the Arbore and their neighboring ethnic groups, their ability to speak multiple languages, and a surviving legend professing the evils of attacking the Arbore.
  • They have been taught about the infections and deaths caused by girl circumcision so the incidents of this may have been reduced but may still be happening.
  • Boys are still circumcised at age 7.

Marriages for Abore People

  • Arranged marriage
  • Consensual marriage
  • Marriage through abduction (government has made this illegal but it sometimes still takes place if both sets of parents agree).
  • Marriage by inheritance.

We had to pay 5 birr for each photo of a person that we took. The people gathered all around us wanting photos taken of them. If there were 3 people in the photo, I paid 15 birr. I had many 5 birr notes in my pocket so I just kept taking as many photos as I could in the time we were there. The people gathered all around us wanting us to take photos.

 

 

After this visit with Arbore, we drove back to the Kanta lodge for lunch.  That is where we dropped of Leigh 3 nights ago.

After lunch we found Leigh. It turns out that she was not feeling well for the past few days so she had slept much of the time.

Ayu went into town to get our passes to visit the Konso People and came back with a guide.  Leigh had already visited the Konso when we were gone so just Jane, Sue, and I went with Ayu and the guide.

Here are some facts about the Konso people I learned from the guide and from the Bradt book on Ethiopia which Sue brought with her on the trip.

  • The Konso people number 300,000. The village we visited has about 12,000. They are hardworking people and are well-known for their expert terracing and are able to make the most of the hard, rocky slopes.

  • They tend to shun coffee beans and prefer the leaves ground into a fine powder and with sunflower seeds and spices.
  • They started their villages on top of hills.
  • Konso villages, known as kantas, are built into the hillsides and encircled with stone walls for protection. The winding paths that weave through the village all lead to the mora, a large, thatched pavilion which acts as a special meeting place for the people of the surrounding villages. At night all of the unmarried men sleep here to protect the community and learn about life.  If anybody in the community needs assistance, they are the ones to help.  This is the central mora.


  • The people may not marry within their own family compound because of genetics.
  • They are weavers.  As we walked through the village we passed a woman spinning cotton…


…and then later we also passed a man spinning the cotton.

  • Some of the walls are hundreds of years old and are built up to 2 meters high.

The wall is much taller than Jane and Sue.


These are the stones that were placed on top of some walls.

  • The settlements each usually have up to four entrance gates and can be reached only via a few steep footpaths.
  • Each compound of people has it own community center (a mora). All boys 12 years of age and over are required to sleep in the top of the center until they’re are married (and even married men stay there). This tradition stems from a time when the village needed to be protected from enemies.  The lower area serves as a shaded place where villages – men, boys and girls, but not grown women can relax, gossip, play and make important communal decisions.

  • Each clan has its own leader and when that leader dies, the son takes over.
    • When the leader dies, his body is kept for 9 years, 9 months, 9 days, and 9 hours before it is buried. The body is treated to keep it from deteriorating in a way that will cause diseases
  • There is a leader of all the clans who is chosen from one of the clan leaders every 18 years.
    • A generation pole (olahita) is in the middle of the ceremonial square (usually the oldest mora). Every 18 years a pole (harvested from the pokalla’s sacred forest) is added to the outside. You can tell the age of a visit by counting the poles and multiplying by 18.

  • Some gravesites have carved markers that show the heroism of the person who died – what animals he killed.

  • Their Religions include Orthodox Christian, Evangelical Protestants, and Animistic.
  • They all get along with no fighting.
  • Boys have to be strong enough to throw a 50 kg rock over their head before they can marry. Usually it is at about age 25.  This boy demonstrated practicing with a smaller stone.

  • Girls also don’t marry until about 22 + years of age.
  • Dakatu village is the oldest and largest one. It has 43 generation poles, which indicate an age of around 740 years and 5500 people.

Whenever I was able, I took some photos of people and structures as we walked through the village.

I loved the way the arch-ways were created.


There was a church within the community.

It would have been fun to take the time to watch these men play this game.

Before we left the village, Sue and I each purchased a shawl created in this village.  The cotton is very soft.

We really enjoyed walking through the Konso village with the walls on either side of us and being able to observe the people as they naturally went on with their daily lives.  I felt much less obtrusive visiting the Konso people than other groups we have visited.  It was not that we were unwelcome when we were in the other villages and it is hard to describe my feelings.  I know that tourists have been visiting African villages and photographing the people for many years.  I am just reflecting on what effect tourists certainly have had on the people and their lives.


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Dassanech People – Jan 15th

Our drive this morning was about 70 km.

I had never seen termite towers that were this tall before.

We reached the Ormorate Immigration Post where we had to show our passports.

 

I was finally able to get a picture of the monkeys in the tree near the river but they move so quickly so the photos are not very clear.

The narrow wooden dugout boats that made out of fig trees were waiting for us to board.

Walking down the dirt path by the river was not the easiest task.

We all sat on the floor of the boat. The men paddled the boats across the Omo River (also called Omo-Bottego). It is the largest Ethiopian river outside the Nile Basin that is entirely contained within the boundaries of Ethiopia and it empties into Lake Turkana on the border with Kenya.  They maneuvered the boat with just a stick and were not pushing off of the bottom. If they had had paddles, it would have been much easier.

The Dassanech People live on the other side of the river. As we approached the shore, we saw cows that had come down to the river to get a drink. Two of them slipped and fell into the water.

Some boys were waiting for us when we reached the other side of the river.

We had to be very careful disembarking from this dugout boat because we had no interest in also slipping into the water.

Here is Ayu talking with a couple other boys.

There were several men working in the field …

 

… and a woman who I think may have been grinding the sorghum.

This is another area which required that I pay 200 birr so that I can take photos. That system works better than paying each person. Of course, I took dozens of photos.

The women are adorned with beads and bracelets even as they are working..

This little girl took my hand and walked most of the way with me to a place where the people were dancing.

The guide said that when the girls finish with their working tasks, that they like to dance.

One of the young women invited me to dance with them. The guide took a video of me dancing but it is too hard to post  videos on the blog. I hope someday to figure out how to create a short DVD of all the videos I have taken so far but I think I will need programs that I don’t have on my computer.

I enjoyed taking more photos of the people who were dancing.

 

The Dassanech are a nomadic people (occasionally moving to a better place for crops) and their homes are easy to take apart and carry. These houses are dome-shaped and made from a frame of branches, which are covered with hides and patchwork.

The guide explained that we could tell whether a girl is married by the way her hair is done. Unmarried girls have some of their hair combed to the front or perhaps the sides.

Married ones comb all of their hair to the back.

The number of knotted parts of the hair at the top shows how many children they have.

I found it extremely disturbing to learn that this community still circumcises girls (female genital mutilation)when they turn about 10 or 11 years old. We were told that if a girl is not circumcised, she cannot marry and her father won’t receive her bride price, so he has a direct interest in her going through the ordeal. Until they are circumcised, girls are called wild animals or boys to tease them. Girls may be circumcised in their mother’s house, or in another village, but it’s always amongst other girls their age going through the same ritual. When the ritual has been completed, her mother gives her sour milk to drink and a necklace. From then on she is allowed to wear a leather skirt to show she is now considered an adult. Marriage often takes place shortly thereafter.

I read that both men are also circumcised as a pre-requisite for marriage. Male circumcision is known as edimita and boys of a clan undergo it together. Temporary huts are built at the site and the boys are transferred to these huts. During this time, some members of their family visit them to deliver food and other necessities. The circumcision ceremony lasts for three months during which time the boys dance and feast on milk, roasted crops, and meat. On the day of the circumcision, the person who is responsible for circumcisions the clan boys circumcise each boy one by one. Then the boys return home with their parents.

The Dassanech have four types of marriage.

  • Arranged marriage
  • Consensual marriage
  • Marriage through abduction (government has made this illegal but it sometimes still takes place if both sets of parents agree).
  • Marriage by inheritance.

Marriage payments (koyta) can be made both in cash and kind. The koyta is shared among the relatives of the bride but the largest share will go to her father.

As we came closer to the homes, he explained that doors to every home have to be the same height.  Nobody’s door is higher than anybody else’s and all of the doorways are low.

You have to bend way down to enter the home. I managed to get down low enough to enter the home.   It was very inside so the photo is difficult to see.

  • The women stay on the side by the kitchen.
  • The men stay on the other side and have a special place to sit.
  • When guests visit, they sit near the man of the house.

I continued taking photos as we walked through the village.  On the top of this structure is a chicken coop.

 

These men are enjoying local beer inside a hut where they can cool off.

We all stayed in this shelter for a bit.

Wow  – this boys legs are really long.  Ethiopian are known to be really fast runners.  I wonder if he will become one of them.

 

I took this panoramic shot to try and show the number of cows.

 

The leader of the community is chosen for his honesty and integrity and can remain in the leadership role for a very long time. The guide told me to give the money for the photos to the man who was chosen to be the leader.

We saw a school on the property but I read the following information.

The people’s lives are bound to the fate of their herds of cattle, sheep and goats that they raise. Boys as young as 6 years old start to herd their family’s sheep and goats, while girls marry very young so parents get additional livestock through dowry. Therefore, parents do not send their children to school. In the Daasanach tribe, education is considered as a luxury. For teachers of Alkatekach Primary School this is their biggest challenge. They use the Alternative Basic Education (ABE) system to cater for the need of the children. The Alternative Basic Education system responds to the urgent need for an education that suits the special needs and constraints of pastoral life. It provides flexible school hours, allowing pastoral children fulfill their household responsibilities of herding cattle to find water and pastures while still finding time for school.

The boatmen were waiting with another dugout boat to take us back across the Omo.

Today was one of the hottest days I have experienced since we arrived in Ethiopia and I was very happy to see the boat again so that we could be on the river.  Getting into the boat from this side was again a tricky maneuver.

 

This time we saw cows crossing the bridge.

After experiencing this hot day, I am so happy that we did not go to the area that is called the depression area in Ethiopia. This was certainly the hottest I wanted to be. I learned from other tourists that some people who went to the depression experienced heat stroke.  When we got back into the Land Cruiser, I wet my handkerchief and tied it around my head. what a relief.

On the way back to lunch we saw a roller.  I think they are related to kingfishers and bee-eaters.

We also passed more vultures devouring a muskrat in the time we were at the village. There are 2 types of vultures in this photo.

From the book I purchased (A Guide to the Ethnic Groups Omo Valley Southern Ethiopia by Minalu Adem) I learned that the Dassanech ethnic group is not strictly defined by ethnicity. Over time the ethnic group has absorbed a wide range of different peoples and it’s now divided into eight main clans. Each clan has its own identity & customs, its own responsibilities towards the rest of the ethnic groups, and is linked to a particular territory. I am not sure which clan we visited.

After lunch we returned to the Buska lodge for an afternoon of relaxation. I was more exhausted (probably from the heat) than I have been on this entire trip. I think it was actually about 104 degrees when we were walking in the sun through the Dassanech Village. Although I have experienced hotter temperatures in other places, this was the first day in Ethiopia that I thought relaxing in the afternoon was a good idea  Jane, Sue, and I  tried to go to the pool at the lodge but the water was much too cold for us.  Another night at the Buska Lodge was quite welcome.


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Hamar People – Cattle Jumping – Jan 14th

When we were eating breakfast this morning, I told Ayu about the note in our room which said that checkout time was at 4:00 am. Jane and I thought that was strange. That is when we learned about Ethiopian time. AM time is from when the sun rises (about 6:00 am according to our clocks) until the sun sets (at about 6:00 pm for our time). So all daylight hours are AM times and all the hours after sunset hours are PM.   That system sure makes sense for this part of the world.

On our way to the Hamar market, we passed these two women who were walking down the road.  Ayu stopped so I could take a photo and I paid them each 5 birr. Ayu told me the name of the tribe but I didn’t write it down correctly.  Later I was told that they are from both the Tsemay and Banna tribes so I hope this information is correct.  The Tsemay and Banna are close neighbors. Many Tsemay live in the town of Weyto.  They are likely on the way to a market.

Ayu found our guide outside of the marketplace and we started walking through the market. I took a photo of this woman who is from the Karo People She was shopping at the Hamar market.

The guide said it was okay to take general photos of the market so, of course, I took as many as I could.

This woman’s back is scared from being hit at one of the Cattle Jumping events.  I will write more about that later in this post.  There are also scars cut into her upper arm and shoulder.  Women do this to make themselves attractive and also to show their strength.

In one section of the market the people were selling food, coffee, etc. This is where the local people were shopping.

We walked through another sections where they were selling items that were likely meant more for tourists and Jane purchased a necklace.

I was told that these necklaces are worn by the first wife of a Hamar man.

We looked through this section and then returned to the area where the local people were shopping.

Charcoal was for sale in several areas.

These men were unloading a truck.

I continued taking as many photos as I could.

Hair grooming is paramount to Hamar concepts of beauty. Women roll their locks with fat and red ochre (assile) and then twist them into crimson-colored dreds called goscha, a style that men find attractive.

As we were walking out of the market, we saw a woman who was wearing a Timber’s t-shirt.  The guide helped me to explain to her that it was for a team from the city where we lived. So she let me take her photo and, of course, I thanked her and showed the photo to her.  She had a big smile.

These are some things I learned about the Hamar People from both the guide and from A Guide to the Ethnic Groups Omo Valley Southern Ethiopia by Minalu Adem

  • The Hamar people are principally pastoralists, breeding cattle, goats, and sheep. They have a similar veneration for cattle as their close neighbors.
  • The women and girls grow crops, with the staple being sorghum, but they are also responsible for collecting water, cooking, and looking after the household and children – who start helping the family by herding the goats from around eight years old.
  • The young men of the village work the crops and defend the herds while adult men herd the cattle, plough with the oxen and raise beehives in acacia trees.
  • As with the majority of ethnic groups in the area, the land is not owned by individuals. The land is free for use by any member of the group. The Hamar move on when they have exhausted the land.
  • They usually eat either sorghum or mixed with milk or boiled coffee husk (shoforo). Balasha,
  • Dry bread mainly from sorghum is sometimes eaten with butter and honey.
  • The Hamar are easily identifiable. The women wear an elaborately decorated goatskin often worn with colored with beads and cowries. Beaded necklaces, bracelets and waistbands (usually made with black and red beads) adorn their bodies.
  • Women wear thick copper necklaces announcing their marital status. They wear a leather long topped necklace and two copper necklaces if they’re the first wife and only two copper necklaces if they’re second, third, or fourth wife to one man.
  • In addition to the women grooming their hair into goscha, the men sometimes wear a clay cap, which is painted and decorated with feathers and other ornaments. They also paint themselves with white chalk paste during ceremonial events.

The Hamar have five types of marriage

  • Arranged marriage
  • Consensual marriage
  • Marriage through Abduction (now illegal so it could be rare. If both sets of parents agree, it likely still happens in remote areas.
  • Marriage by inheritance
  • Replacement marriage

I could hardly believe that we were in this area on the day a Cattle Jumping event was happening.  I went with Ayu and a guide named Kulo who is from the Hamar area. Here is the information I read about the ceremony including a couple of my reactions and photos I took.

  • A man comes of age by leaping over a line of cattle.   The ceremony qualifies him to marry, own cattle, and have children.
  • The timing of the ceremony is decided by the man’s parents and usually happens after the harvest. It seemed strange to me that there was a cattle jumping ceremony when we were there because this is not harvest time.
  • Prior to the ceremony the male who has to jump usually walks to neighboring settlements to announce his intent to jump and to distribute invitations (usually a strip of bark with a number of knots, one for each day left before the ceremony)

The guide and Ayu led me to the place where the ceremony was going to take place.  They told me that the cost for this event would be 600 birr (about $22 US dollars)

  • They were preparing paint to paint the faces of the men who have already jumped the cattle. These men are called the Maza.

  • There were many tourists around the area watching the Maza have their faces painted and also having their faces painted.

  • Ayu encouraged me to get my face painted.  Painting tourists’ faces is certainly not part of the Hamar People’s traditional ceremony.

Ayu took a photo of me with a couple of the Maza …

…and we also had  our photo taken together.

  • Before the cattle jumping, man’s female relations demand to be whipped as part of the ceremony.  The women gather around in a group, laughing and helping each other to tie up their shirts which exposes their backs.

  • They dance and sing around in a circle.

  • Women each blow a horn and sing a song as they jump around in front of the Maza.
  • The Maza use a long fine stick and strikes the girls on their exposed backs. This is a consensual act with the girls begging and singing to the Maza so that he continues whipping them. This is considered not only a show of strength from the girls, who proudly show off their scars, but it also symbolizes their affection towards their kin. Their scars are a mark of how they suffered for their brothers and relatives. The deeper their scars, the more love they show for their boy. It’s as disturbing as it is intriguing.

Even though I knew what was going to happen, watching these women (both young and older) blow their horns and sing a song asking the men (Maza) to hit them with the long fine stick was difficult to witness. Many of them went through this ritual over and over again.  On one website I read that the women pass around gords of sorghum beer and wine during this ritual.  I did not see that happening.

  • How can I describe how hard it was see the scars on their backs both the old ones and the new ones? I chose to be at this event and I was there with many, many other tourists.  I know that witnessing this ritual with my own eyes had a much more powerful impact on me than when I heard about it before I came here.

 

The guide led me to another place and put a couple of rocks on the ground so I could sit on them as I was waiting for the next part of the ceremony.

Below is more of what I read in the book.

  • The young man who is to leap has his head partially shaved and he’s rubbed with sand to wash away his sins. He’s then smeared with dung to give him strength and wide strips of tree bark are strapped around his body in a cross as a form of spiritual protection. In the ceremony I witnessed, his naked body seemed to be covered in some kind of oil.
  • The Maza and the elders line up between eight and twenty cows and castrated male cattle. To come of age, the man must leap across the line four times. Only when he has been through this initiation rite can he marry the wife chosen for him by his parents and start o build up his own herd. Once his marriage has been agreed, a dowry of around twenty cattle and thirty goats must be paid to the ride’s family.

In the ceremony I witnessed, there were only 4 cows lined up for him to jump.  He did jump back and forth across the  backs of the cattle four times.

 

There were many tourists also watching.  When the event was over I went with the guide to give my money to a man.  I was told that he was the father of the boy who jumped the bulls.

As I was writing this post, I was still reverberating over the fact that I didn’t only read about this day in a book, or watch it in a movie, or look at other people’s photos. I was actually there to experienced this incredible event.  It will be a day that I will never forget.

Tonight we stayed at the Buska Lodge which was much more comfortable than in Jinka.  I didn’t take any photos so I copied this one of a room from the website.

At dinner we were told by other tourists that the money I paid to see the bull jumping was divided between the father of the boy who jumped and the guide association that brings tourists to see the event.