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Home / Attractions / Southern Ethiopia Tour / Omo Valley Tribes


Omo Valley is certainly one of the most unique places on earth which is located in Africa’s Great Rift Valley and this region is known for its culture and diversity. The tribes in Lower Omo Valley are believed to be among the most fascinating on the continent of Africa and around the world. Get to know these amazing people and about Ethiopia by experiencing their culture!

Dorze Tribe

The people of Dorze is Well known by cotton weavers and those  tribe were once warriors. They are famous for their cotton woven cloths and beehive huts. The Dorze people live in large communities north of Addis Ababa by making nice cultural clothes for the country. The Dorze Tribes are cultivating their own food and prevent erosion by terracing along the mountainside. In their farmlands, the Dorze will grow highland cereals. They also grow spices, vegetables, fruits and tobacco within their compound and Dorze people wear colorful toga robes called shammas. They are very popular throughout Ethiopia.

The house or hut of the Dorze Tribes are made up of hard wood poles, woven bamboo, enset and other natural materials

Arbore Tribe

Arbore tribe is a small tribe that lives in the southwest region of the Omo Valley. They have ancestral and cultural links to the Konso people and perform many ritual dances while singing. The Tsemay people are their neighboring tribe and the Arbore people are pastoralists (livestock farmers). They believe that their singing and dancing eliminates negative energy and with the negative energy gone, the tribe will prosper.

The women of the tribe cover their heads with a black cloth and are known to wear very

Traditional dancing is practiced by the tribe and wealth is measured by the number of cattle a tribesman owns.

Ari Tribe

Ari people inhabit the northern part of the Mago National Park in Ethiopia and have the largest territory of all the tribes in the area. They have fertile lands allowing them to have several types of plantations. An Ari’s crop can consist of grains, coffee, fruits and honey. It’s also common for them to have large herds of livestock.

Their women are known for selling pottery and wearing skirts made from banana trees called enset. Tribe members wear a lot of jewelry and have many piercings in their ears. They wrap beads and bracelets around their arms and waist for decoration.

The Ari are known to paint and scar their bodies as part of their culture. You can find some of the Ari people visiting the market in Key Afer.

Bodi Tribe

The Bodi tribes are  living  close to the Omo River in southern Ethiopia. South of the Bodi are the Mursi tribe. They are pastoralists (livestock farmers) and agriculturalists. Along the banks of the river, they will grow sorghum, mais and coffee. They live with their cattle herds and livestock plays a large role in the tribe.

Bena Tribe

Bena Tribes are neighbors with the Hamer tribe and it is believed that the Bena actually originated from them centuries ago. They have wonderful markets in Key Afer and Jinka are often visited by them and the Bena practice ritual dancing and singing. The men often have their hair dressed up with a colorful clay cap that is decorated with feathers. Both the men and women wear long garments and paint their bodies with white chalk. Women of the tribe wear beads in their hair that is held together with butter.

Hamar Tribe

Hamar tribes are one of the most known tribes in Southern Ethiopia. They inhabit the territory east of the Omo River and have villages in Turmi and Dimeka. Tourists visit the Hamer hoping to see a traditional bull jumping ceremony.

They are cattle herders and practice agriculture. Very colorful bracelets and beads are worn in their hair and around their waists and arms. The practice of body modification is used by cutting themselves and packing the wound with ash and charcoal. Some of the women wear circular wedge necklaces indicating that they are married. Men paint themselves with white chalk to prepare for a ceremony. Hair ornaments worn by the men indicate a previous kill of an enemy or animal. The Hammers have unique huts that are made up of mud, wood and straw.

Kara Tribe

The Karo or Kara is a small tribe with an estimated population between 1,000 and 3,000. They are closely related to the Kwegu tribe. They live along the east banks of the Omo River in southern Ethiopia and practice flood retreat cultivation. The crops that are grown by them are sorghum, maize and beans. Only small cattle are kept because of the tsetse flies. These flies are large and consume the blood of vertebrate animals.

Konso Tribe

The Konso live in an isolated region of the basalt hills. The area is made up of hard rocky slopes. A Konso village maybe fortified by a stone wall used as a defensive measure. Their village is located on hilltops and is split up into communities, with each community having a main hut. In order to enter a Konso village, you must pass through a gate and a series of alleys. These paths are part of its security system, keeping the village difficult to access.

Kwegu or Kwego Tribe

The Kwegu or Muguji are one of the smallest tribes in Omo Valley, living in small villages along the Mago River. It is believed that the devasting affects from the Gibe III dam being built on the Omo River will cause the tribe to go extinct.

Unlike the other tribes, the Kwegu do not have cattle. They are hunters and live off the land. Small game are trapped by the tribe for food, but they also eat fruits and honey if available. They are largely dependent on the Omo River for fish to eat. Close relatives to the Kwegu are the Karo people. It is often that you can find Kwegu and Karo people living together or even marrying each other.

Mursi Tribe

The Mursi or Mursu people are the most popular in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley. They are well known for their unique lip plates. They are settled around the Omo River and in the Mago National Park. Due to the climate, they move twice a year between the winter and summer months. They herd cattle and grow crops along the banks of the Omo River.

Tsemay Tribe

They are found living in the semi-arid region of the Omo Valley. These people are agro-pastoralist and use both livestock herding and agriculture to survive. Common crops grown by the tribe are sorghum, millet and sometimes cotton.

Like the Hamer tribe, the Tsemay boys have to successfully complete a bull jumping event. This is a ceremony where the boy runs across multiple bulls. If the boy can make it across four times without falling, he becomes a man. To prove a boy has accomplished a bull jumping, he is outfitted with a band that has feathers on it. It is worn on his head and it shows that he is now looking for a wife.

Turkana Tribe

The second largest pastoral tribe in Kenya, the Turkana are nomadic (move from place to place). They live in northern Kenya around Lake Turkana. In 1975 the lake was named after the them. Their land is mostly dry desert regions and they depend on the rainy seasons for survival. Because water is so scarce in the area, they often fight with other tribes over territory. They are known to be very aggressive and dangerous. Traditional beliefs of the Turkana have hardly been affected by western civilization. The Turkana pray to Akuj for rain during the dry season. Akuj is their god and they will make animal sacrifices hoping to please it.

Like most indigenous people, the Turkana value their cattle. The cows provide them with food and a higher status. Other animals such as, camels, donkeys, goats and sheep are kept by them. Being nomadic people, they are constantly searching for better land and more water.

Very colorful people, they dress themselves up with necklaces and bracelets. Decorations are made Turkana tribe hut with brown, red and yellow colors. Men cover their heads with mud and paint it blue with feathers. They tattoo their bodies to show that they have killed an enemy.

Something different from the other tribes in Africa, the Turkana do not allow circumcision among its people. Women are only considered adults after they are married and men can marry as many wives as he can afford. In the Turkana tribe, a married woman will wear different type of jewelry then a single woman.

Bumi Tribe

The Bumi or Bume people are also known as the Nyangatom. They live south of the Omo National Park, but occasionally move to the lower regions if food or water is scarce. Known to be fierce fighters, they are often at war with Hamer and Karo tribes. Different from other tribes, the Bumi tribesmen hunt crocodiles using harpoons and a canoe.

Scarification is practiced by both men and women in the tribe. The women do it to beautify themselves and the men to signify a kill. Both sexes wear a lot of multi colored necklaces and may also have a lower lip plug.

The tribe practices both agriculture and cattle herding. Flood waters must recede along the river’s banks before they will plant their crops. Beehives are smoked out by the Bumi and they gorge themselves with the honey.

Daasanech or Dassanech Tribe

Also known as the Galeb or Geleb, this tribe lives just north of Kenya’s Lake Turkana. Their neighboring tribe is the Turkana people. The Daasanech are pastralists (cattle herders), but due to the harsh territory, they have moved south to grow crops and fish. Cattle are used by the tribesman for meat, milk and clothing. Often their cattle die from disease and drought. Of all the tribes in the Omo Valley, the Daasanech are the poorest.

Surma Or Suri Tribes

Suri, also known as the Surma people live in the southwestern plains of Ethiopia. They raise cattle and farm when the land is fertile. Cattle are important to the Suri, giving them status. The more cattle a tribesmen has, the wealthier they are. In order for a man to marry a women in the Suri tribe, he must own at least 60 cattle. Cattle are given to the family of the woman in exchange for marriage. Like the other tribes, the Suri will use the milk and blood from the cow. During the dry season, the people will drink blood instead of milk. Blood can be drained from a cow once a month. This is done by making a small incision in its neck.



National Parks in Omo Valley

There are many national parks located in Ethiopia. Many of them being home to an abundance of wild life. However there are two major National Parks located in Omo Valley. One of the most remote National Parks in the world is Omo National Park. Mago National Park is located east of Omo and is separated by the Omo River.

Omo National Park

Omo National Park is Ethiopia’s largest most remote park and is not easily accessible. The park does have a headquarters and a new airstrip but has little support for travellers. It is located on the west bank of the Omo River and was established as a national park in 1966. The park has approximately 2,527 square miles of vegetation and wildlife.

Omo National Park is home to some of Ethiopia’s native tribes which are the Dizi, Me’en, Mursi, Nyangatom and Suri can be found there. It is also home to many unique animals to include Buffalo, Cheetah, Eland, Elephants, Giraffes, Leopard’s, Lions and Zebras to name a few. There are over 306 species of birds that can be found in the Omo National Park.

Mago National Park

Mago National Park is found on the east bank of the Omo River. It is approximately 1,343 square miles and its highest point is Mount Mago. The park was established in 1979 and is Ethiopia’s newest National Park. The Mago National Park is divided by the Mago river which is a tributary of the Omo river. Located within the boundaries of the park is Lake Dipa. The west side of the park is the Tama Wildlife Reserve and to the south is the Murle controlled hunting area. There is a park office and all roads to and from it are dirt.

The park mainly consist of grasslands with Omo National Park & Mago National Parksome forest areas located around the rivers. Many animals can be found in the Mago National Park. Some of the common ones are the buffalo, cheetah, elephant, giraffe, hartebeest, leopard, lion and zebra. Bird species are also prevalent in Mago, with the rare Turdoides tenebrosus (Dusky Babbler) being found at Lake Dipa. Along the river in the lower Omo Valley there is a diverse ground of ethnic tribes that live in the park. The Mursi people are amongst the most common to visit.

Nechsar National Park

Nechsar National Park was established in 1974 with the aim of conserving the endemic Swayne’s Hartebeest and preserving its scenic beauty. It is situated 510 km south of Addis Ababa near the town of Arba Minch. It is bounded by the Amaro Mountains in the east, north by Lake Abaya, and south by Lake Chamo.

Nechsar National Park’s landscape includes extensive grasslands, savannah, mountains and hills. Nechsar has a variety of habitats ranging from savannah, dry bush and ground water forests. Bushland dominates most of the area and major species include Combretumspp., Dichrostachys cinerea., Acacia tortilis, Balanites aegyptica and few Acacia nilotica. Smaller trees and shrubs include Cadada farinose, Maytenus senegalensis, Rhus natalensis, Terminalia brownii, Ximenia caffra and Ziziphus spp.. These habitats are home to at least 200 species of birds. To date, 37 species of mammals have been recorded including the Swayne’s Hartbeest, Burchell’s Zebra, Grant’s Gazelle, Guenther’s Dik Dik Greater Kudu, and Hunting Dog. Hippopotamus, Grey Duicker, Common Bushbuck and Crocodile. The lakes support stocks of Nile perch and cat Fish.

Traditional bull jumping Ceremony Of Hamar Tribes

Is a rite of passage for men coming of age. The event last three days and a hut used by the Hamer or Hamar tribe involve only castrated cattle. The man must jump over a line of 10 to 30 bulls four times completely nude without falling. If this task is complete, the man joins the ranks of the Maza. Maza are other men that have successfully completed the bull jumping event. During this ceremony, the women of the tribe provoke the maza to whip them on their bare backs. This is extrememly painful and causes severe scaring on the women. The scars are a symbol of devotion to the men and are encourged by the tribe. Night dancing called evangadi is also a Hamer tradition.

Donga Stick Fighting Ceremony Of The Surma Tribes

Donga, Stick Fight takes place in the name of love In most cases, stick fighting     is done so young men can prove their masculinity and to find wives. It is a way for young men to prove themselves to the young women. This ritual is called Donga or Zagne. Donga is both the name of the sport and the stick they use for the fight. Stick fight is central in Suri culture. In most cases, stick fight is a way for warriors to find girlfriends, it can also be a way to settle conflicts. On this occasion men show their courage, their virility and their resistance to pain, to the young women.

The fights are held between Suri villages, and begin with 20 to 30 people on each side,     and can end up with hundreds of warriors involved. Suri are famous for stick fighting, but they are not the only ones to respect such a custom, as the neighbor tribe, the Mursi were also practicing these traditional fights. But Now a days because of unknown reason the Mursi stop the tradition of stick fight.

The day before the Zagnei, fighters have to pure themselves. They do it by drinking a special preparation, called Dokai, which is made of the bark of a special tree, which is   mixed with water. After taking it, warriors make themselves vomiting the drink. The water     is supposed to bring with it many of the body’s impurities. After this ritual they don’t eat until the following morning. Warriors walk kilometers to come fighting at Zagnei, which takes place in a clearing. They stop when crossing a river in order to wash themselves, before decorating their bodies for the fight.