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Konso and the Omo Valley Ethiopia

To the Omo Valley: Konso

As a solo traveller, it’s very easy to come to a dead end.  I felt a little despondent hanging around Arber Minch.  The roads onwards have few regular buses, and those that ply the route are heading into Kenya.  The few travellers in this area were staying I one particular hotel with comfortable beds and good food.  It is places like this that one hopes to meet other to share the cost of a 4WD.  The couple I met seemed unlikely candidates; an Israeli couple on honeymoon.  Nevertheless, we struck a deal, splitting the cost of a jeep three ways, and the following morning we set of for the fabled Omo Valley.

The first stop was in Konso, as small town surrounded by fascinating walled villages sitting on top of the hills.  Within the walls, each family lives in a small cluster of round, stick and stone thatched huts.  These in turn cluster together around a larger communal house or Mora. Unlike the groups occupying the less hilly areas, these people grow crops, mainly of Sorghum.  While the trappings of a traditional culture are clear to be seen in buildings, a day wandering villages, reveal little of the traditions of an area, long cut off from main Ethiopian development

The Omo Valley: The Hamar (Hamer)

The culture of the Hamar tribe, seem more explicit and visible.  Travelling with an armed guard appears a requirement of any visit.  It was put to us that there are tensions in the area, largely as a result of cattle rustling and the availability of arms which flood in from the conflict in south Sudan.
A visit with a guide to a small family cluster of huts felt slightly uncomfortable.  This was not the result of so many guns amongst the male population of all ages, but more to do with expectations of us.  It was clear that we had come to observe, the people would pose, we would photograph, and money would be expected.  It created an atmosphere of some sort of human zoo.

We moved on; this time to the market.  Here the atmosphere was completely different.  As is usually the case, when people are engaged going about their business, tourism becomes less contrived.  It’s possible to strike up a conversation, albeit stultified by the language barrier, joke about the quality of produce, and join in liquid refreshment at the local bar.

The same more relaxed atmosphere applied to the marriage celebration witnessed on the same day.  People were much more occupied with the marriage that the gawping foreigners.