Travel in Ethiopia: Addis Ababa and the Omo Valley

Mount Wenchi
Mount Wenchi

A trickle of blood ran from the corner of his mouth, down his chin and fell like a drop of red rain into the dark mud. Handing me a calabash half-filled with fresh, warm cow’s blood, the child stared at me in anticipation. “Go on; drink it,” he seemed to be saying. Breakfast was served. I didn’t drink, scared of catching something, but it saddened me to think that if all goes according to plan, the world will lose a little more of its colour and diversity in a few year’s time, and the traditions that I witnessed in this rural part of east Africa will soon be extinct.

The lower Omo Valley region of southwestern Ethiopia is overwhelmingly green, riven with steep-sided hills and home to about two dozen tribal groups, including the bull-jumping Hamer people, the decorated Mursi, whose women folk wear huge lip plates, and Surmi warriors, who paint themselves white to look like spirits in the night. Without any doubt, the lower Omo Valley is one of the most ethnically diverse corners of Africa. It is also, according to environmentalists, an area under severe threat thanks to the enormous Gibe III dam that is being constructed upriver of the Omo Valley. This, they say, will have a dramatic effect on water levels downstream, which in turn will destroy the way of life of the people of Omo. Defenders of the dam disagree and point to the financial and technological advantages it will bring to the region and country as a whole.

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