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.