There are over 83 ethnic groups with 200 dialects. Based on the language they speak, they can be divided into Semitic, Cushitic, Nilotic, and Omotic stocks. Although the original physical differences between the major ethnic groups have been blurred by centuries, if not millennia, of intermarriage, there remain many who are distinct and unique.

The various Ethiopian people express themselves in rituals, ceremonies and festivals. Besides the individual festivals of the different ethnic groups, we do have national festivals. Some of these are international, like the various muslim festivals that are observed globally. Others are religion and political oriented. Almost all of the festivals play an important role in providing the bond of an individual family and the reunion of extended families. Some of the national festivals display the colorful harmony of the various Ethiopian peoples united under a common theme.

Interestingly, Ethiopia remains to be a place where two religions (Christianity and Islam) co-exist together with mutual respect to one another.

As the northern part of the country is notable for its historical relics, there are the Omotic tribes of the Omo valley who still adhere to ancient animistic rituals. In this desolate region a number of different peoples lead nomadic or semi-nomadic lives. From the north of Turkana up to the Sudanese frontier, the Bume, the Karo, the Benna, the Hammer, the Geleb, the Mursi and other ethnic groups co-exist in a hostile territory isolated from and forgotten by the rest of Ethiopia and the world at large. Beaded leather skirts and complementing body painting, feathered headdresses and dramatic scarification make the Hamar, Bumi, Karo, and Bena people visually outstanding. Even more unusual are the isolated Mursi tribe whose women wear large clay lip plates symbolizing their worth and beauty .

The unique and indigenous cultures of the different tribes make Ethiopia photographer’s paradise. The bounty of fascinating costumes, colorful ceremonies and celebrations, arts, crafts, music and dance that distinguishes Ethiopia as a diminutive Africa.

Semien Mountain People

No description of the Simyen would be complete without a mention of its people. They are Amharas; their language is Ethiopia’s official tongue, Amharic (Amharigna).Most Amharas belong to the Ethio­pian Orthodox Church.

But when Ethiopia was in­vaded by the Muslim forces of Ahmed Gragn in the sixteenth century, several Muslim settlements were established in the Simyen. These settlements have remained there, culturally distinct from, but inter­mingled: with, the Christian majority. Thus the region today contains members of both religious groups.

With very few exceptions, the people of the region are farmers. The Muslims, but not the Christians, may supplement their farming activities by weaving.

Life is hard for these people; their farming methods are inefficient and destructive to the land, and this has caused them to move higher and higher. Into the mountains, into virgin ground, as the soil becomes exhausted or eroded away. As they move higher, they enter areas progressively less suited for cultivation, thus improving their lot very little.

Konso Cultural Landscape

Konso Cultural Landscape is a 55 square km arid property of stone walled terraces and fortified settlements in the Konso highlands of Ethiopia. It constitutes a spectacular example of a living cultural tradition stretching back 21 generations (more than 400 years) adapted to its dry hostile environment. The landscape demonstrates the shared values, social cohesion and engineering knowledge of its communities.

The site also features anthropomorphic wooden statues – grouped to represent respected members of their communities and particularly heroic events – which are an exceptional living testimony to funerary traditions that are on the verge of disappearing. Stone steles in the towns express a complex system of marking the passing of generations of leaders.

The cultural properties including the traditional stone wall towns (Paletea), ward system (kanta), Mora (cultural space), the generation pole (Olayta), the dry stone terracing practices (Kabata), the burial marker (Waka) and other living cultural practices are reasons for the precipitation of  the Konso cultural landscape to be listed on UNESCO  world heritage sites list. All the necessary requirements have completed including, field studies, data collections, nomination file/document and management plan of the Konso Cultural Landscape.

Terrace: The Konso have adapted a terrace agricultural system and the core Konso area is characterized by extensive dry stone terraces.Theses terrace retain the soil from erosion and

create terrace saddles that are used for agriculture. The terraces are the main features of the Konso landscape and the hills are contoured by the dry stone terraces that could reach at some places up to 5m high. The terraces retention walls are built with heavier blocks at the base. The saddles that are prepared for agriculture are between four and eight meters wide at most places

The walled town (Paleta): The Konso live in dry stone walled towns (Paleta) located on high hills selected for their strategic and defensive advantage. The Knoso villages remarkable for the beauty and simplicity of its workmanship, constructed entirely from natural materials, cultivated or constructed from the surroundings. The village is ringed by dry stonewalls, at least a meter thick and three meters high.

Omo People

Reckoned by enthusiasts to be one of Africa’s premier location for white water river rafting, its early fury takes it through gorges hundreds of meters deep and over fish, crocodile and hippo.

On the final leg of its journey south to Turkana, the Omo forms the border between Kefa and Gamo Gofa provinces.


It’s here that Ethiopia’s largest nature sanctuary, the Omo National park is located, with belts of forest, hot springs and extensive wilderness.

The park is one of the richest in spectacle and yet one of the least-visited areas in East and Central Africa. Most easily accessed from the town of Jinka, another sanctuary, the Mago National park, has been establishing on the eastern bank of the river, comprising  mainly savanna, with some forestes areas. The highest point is Mount Mago, in the north of the park.

Both park offer incredible spectacles of big game. Both also have the merit of being far from the beaten track and virtually unexplored, and thus are place in which game can be seen in a truly natural state.

The parks are extensive wilderness areas and wildlife can be prolific: large herds of eland and buffalBuffalo in Mago and Omo National Parko, elephant, giraffe, cheetah, lion, leopard, and Burchell’s zebra, Lesser kudu lelwel hartebeest, topi, and oryx are all resident species, as well as deBrazza’s and colobus monkeys and Anubis baboon. The 306 bird species recorded in the Omo Nation park include meny that will be familiar to East African visitors. Birds include bustards, hornbills, weavers and starlings, with kingfishers and herons along the river.

On the fringes of the national parks, the lower Omo valley is home to a remarkable mix of small, contrasting ethnic groups—not only the Bume and the Karo, but also the geleb, the Bodi, the Mursi and the Surma, the Erbore and the Hamer, to name but a few. Lifestyles are as varied as the people themselves. The Mursi and Surma, who mix basic subsistence cultivation with small-scale cattle-herding, lead lives of harsh simplicity, uncluttered by the pressures and anxieties of the modern world outside.

They are renowned for the strange custom followed by their women who, on reaching maturity, have their lower lips slit and circular clay discs inserted. The larger the disc the more desirable the wearer!

The Mursi warriors still follow the custom of carving deep crescent-shaped incision in their arms to show the number of enemies they have killed in battle.

The Surma and Karo utilize various clays and vegetable dyes to trace amazing patterns on one another’s faces, chests, arms and legs. Hamer women wear their hair in dense ringlets smeared with mud and ghee. If they are lucky to find some strips of shiny metal, they add one or two to their hairstyle. Most trendy are the aluminum plate hanging from their foreheads. Jewellery tends to be simple but string- colourful necklaces, chunky metal wrists and armlets, shiny nails appended to skirts, multiple earrings and so on. Karo and Geleb sclpt their hair with mud into extravagant shapes, topped off with a redochred mud “cap” to hold an ostrich feather or two. Goatskins are plentiful and most women wear leather skirts, often embroidered with colourful beadwork or cut into long strips.