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People of Africa: The Hamer Tribe in Ethiopia

Updated on February 9, 2015

In Ethiopia

The Hamer tribe is an indigenous group of people in Africa. Their home is in the beautiful Omo valley, located in the south-western parts of Ethiopia. They are a semi-nomadic, pastoral people, numbering about 42 000.

The Hamer people are dependent on their cattle. They will stay for a few months wherever there is enough grass for grazing, putting up their round huts. When the grass is finished, they will move on to new pasture grounds. This is the way they have been living for generations. A lot of their culture has now become well-known to the outside world. It's a real privilege to get to know them.

Ethiopia in Africa

The Omo valley is indicated

Ethiopia is located in the Eastern part of Africa, north of Kenya. It is often referrred to as "The Horn of Africa".


An interesting people

Omo Valley Ethiopia

A village is made up of about 20 huts put up around a meeting place. This central place is where dancing and feasting occurs. Add a few cattle and goat pens, and the village is ready.

The Hamar often trade with their neighbours for sorghum and corn, as they do not grow these themselves. From the goats and cattle they get milk and meat (they also drink the blood straight from a vein on the cow's neck!). Sorghum is made into a pancake or porridge and eaten with a stew. It is also prepared as a beer.

ethiopian woman
ethiopian woman

People of Ethiopia

the Hamer People

Men typically wear a checkered skirt of cloth, while women wear a cow skin skirt. The women do not cover their upper body with clothes, but adorn themselves with rows of necklaces. They also use skin from the kudu antelope for clothes.

By name most of them are Muslim, but in practice they are still animists. A number are now converting to Christianity, or at least a form of it, because of the influence of missionaries.

(Picture Credit)

Hamer Women Hair

Both men and women

The Hamer are known for putting great importance on the braiding of hair, and adorning it with feathers and beads. It is not unusual to see a man braiding another man's hair. To get the right colour and texture they put ochre and clay in their hair. Many women also use butter to condition and style their hair.

Becoming a Man- Cattle Jumping

A man pictures

Before a man can take a wife and get married, he has to be declared a man. For this he has to pass a test- run over the back of cattle four times without falling down.If he would fall down, he can get another chance, but this will usually be at another occasion. The young man will be naked, only a cord is tied around his chest. This is in symbol of his childhood.

After the man has passed the test, he is dressed and the party starts! They will feast for several days. Then, the young man joins the ranks of the maza - other men who have recently passed the same test and who spend the next few months of their lives supervising these events in villages throughout the Hamer territory.

Watch the video here: Bull Jumping Ceremony

Even though this is often referred to as a bull jumping ceremony, the Hamer people only use castrated male cattle or cows. Adding to this, the cattle is being held by other young men, so the risks are minimal.

Helping Their Brother Become a Man

People in Ethiopia

The sisters and cousins of the young man will aid him in being strong when facing this test. This they do by being whipped by the young men who have already passed the jumping. They will lash the girls on the back with rods, making deep, bleeding cuts which, eventually, become scars. For a woman to thus support her brother is an honor. It is also claimed to encourage family unit, and if she will face problems in later life she can turn to her brother for aid.

Click here to watch a video of this first part of the initiation ceremony, The Hamer Women

Read more about Ethiopia and the Omo valley

Tribal Painting in Ethiopia

Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa
Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa

This is a book with the fantastic pictures by Hans Silvester. He has traveled extensively in the Omo valley, and here present about 160 of his best pictures.


Helping the Hamar people help themselves

The Hamer people have been facing severe problems with drought and disease. To help them, without making them dependant on foreign aid, the Global Team for Local Initiatives (GTLI) have been teaching the Hamer people new skills when it comes to hygiene, farming, business and much more. Their aim is to " help them adapt to the changing world while maintaining their cultural values."

One aspect of this aid is in teaching the Hamer women how to sell their traditional craft, such as beaded necklaces and belts.

At their web-site:*Global Team for Local Initiatives*, you can read more, watch videos and buy bracelets and necklaces.

omo valley
omo valley

The Omo Valley

The Lower Omo Valley, near Lake Turkana, is a very important historical area. Many fossils have been found here, including remains of humans. It seems that this was a meeting point for travelers to different parts of Africa, as tribes migrated in every direction. Many prehistorians and palaeontologists have been doing research in this area. It is now on the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.

Tours in Ethiopia - Visit the Omo valley

Most tours take up to 15 days. You really need this time, because roads are not always good and travelling can take time. Plus the fact that you want to really enjoy the beautiful scenery and exciting people!

Eric Hester - The Omo River Valley

ethiopian food
ethiopian food


A very important ingredient in the diet of the Hamer people is sorghum. This is a small grain, glutenfree, which is eaten all over the world. The US is the world's largest producer of sorghum, exporting it to Mexico and Japan (among others). Sorghum has a good nutritional value and does not require much water to grow, making it a good crop for Africa.

Read more about SORGHUM here.

Singing, dancing and more

Preparations for your trip to Ethiopia

For travelers to Ethiopia, there are a few vaccinations and precautions that are recommended:

-Hepatitis A and B/ Typhoid/ Yellow Fever/ Meningococcus/ Polio / MMR / Tetanus-Diptheria

- Malaria prophylaxis. Only if you are going outside of Addis, in the lower parts of the country. The northern parts of Ethiopia (including Addis Ababa) are at such a high altitude that malaria is not a problem.

- Traveler's diarrhea is quite common. All travelers should bring along an antibiotic and an anti-diarrhea drug to be started promptly if significant diarrhea occurs.

In general it is good to keep a good hygiene and avoid raw food in any form. When eating out, especially in the country side, stick to food that has been properly heated prior to eating. The local food, injera, is often handled by hand and stored for several days after preparation.

Have you ever been to Ethiopia? - Have you visited the Omo valley?

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    • Richard1988 profile image

      Richard 3 years ago from Hampshire - England

      What a fascinating tribe. Tribes like this have such unique beliefs and cultures - it really make you realise how many worlds away we are in the "modern world". Beautiful lens and photos :)

    • profile image

      alex55 4 years ago

      Unfortunately you have a GREAT deal of mistakes - a big number of these picures have NOTHING to do with Hamer tribe, some of them are Bumi tribe and some are other tribes. This page has many errors.

    • VioletteRose LM profile image

      VioletteRose LM 4 years ago

      Interesting and informative lens, enjoyed reading it!

    • marktplaatsshop profile image

      marktplaatsshop 4 years ago

      This is a great lens and I enjoyed reading it, thanks for sharing

    • Max Globe profile image

      Max Globe 4 years ago

      Amazing lens, my friend, truly inspiring.

    • Guy E Wood profile image

      Guy E Wood 4 years ago from USA

      Truly enjoyed your lens! I taught at a program run through Addis Ababa University a few years ago and loved living in Ethiopia. I'm always on the lookout for opportunities to relive some of those moments by visiting images shared by others. Thank you!


    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 4 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      you have presented some great lenses about ethiopia. this is one of them.very interesting read.

    • Wbisbill LM profile image

      Barbara Isbill 4 years ago from New Market Tn 37820

      Fascinating! Enjoyable read!

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 5 years ago

      I always enjoy reading your articles about Ethiopia and its people. Your personal experiences there are fascinating!

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 5 years ago

      I always enjoy reading your articles about Ethiopia and its people. Your personal experiences there are fascinating!

    • kabbalah lm profile image

      kabbalah lm 5 years ago

      Fascinating country

    • ElBat profile image

      Eleni Bat 5 years ago from Greece

      Such beautiful people. I would love to spent time with them. Who know?Maybe one day...

    • GardenerDon profile image

      Gardener Don 5 years ago

      This is why I love Squidoo - you cruise around looking at random lenses then you land on a gem like this one. I really enjoyed it - well done.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      I have only seen Ethiopia through your eyes and you show the beauty of the Ethiopian people and their land. Your articles are amazing.

    • victoriahaneveer profile image

      victoriahaneveer 5 years ago

      What a fascinating lens. Blessed.

    • victoriahaneveer profile image

      victoriahaneveer 5 years ago

      What a fascinating lens. Blessed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Totally Unique! TY

    • profile image

      AlexBPearl 5 years ago

      Terrific lens!

    • HalloweenRecipes profile image

      HalloweenRecipes 5 years ago

      Very interesting lens you've written here. I enjoyed learning a bit about the Hamer people of Ethiopia.

    • profile image

      cmadden 5 years ago

      Interesting and well-presented.

    • kimark421 profile image

      kimark421 5 years ago

      Very interesting, and well done, lens. Thanks for the great read.

    • amytrumpeter profile image

      Amy Trumpeter 5 years ago from Oxford

      Great information, thanks so much for this. I would love to visit Ethiopia someday.

    • profile image

      solarsistar 5 years ago

      I proudly share the same name as these glorious people who also adorn dreadlocks like i do and way before Jamaicans did.

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 5 years ago

      They are beautiful people! I wonder what language they speak. I will check that lens. Thank you for telling us about them. I imagine these are the people that we commonly call the Maasai. Different country, but same cuisine.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens!!

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 5 years ago

      Very interesting lens. I've learned a lot by reading it.

    • profile image

      Donnette Davis 5 years ago from South Africa

      Wonderful magnificent and spectacularly diverse Africa. Wonderful lens. Blessed by a Squid Angel x

    • profile image

      sailor_man 5 years ago

      As an interesting read, I recommend it to my lenses.

    • marijahorvat lm profile image

      marijahorvat lm 5 years ago

      Every day you learn something new... Thanx for the great lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Awesome lens:) Keep working ,great job!

    • rawwwwwws lm profile image

      rawwwwwws lm 5 years ago

      WOW, No I have not, but you have done such a good job in putting this lens together and sharing about the Hamer people of Ethiopia.

    • CoolFool83 profile image

      CoolFool83 5 years ago

      Such a beautiful lense. Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago


    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Popping back in to sprinkle some angel dust on this lens!

    • maryLuu profile image

      maryLuu 5 years ago

      Fascinating lens! Fascinating culture!

    • cinefile profile image

      cinefile 5 years ago

      Incredibly unique and fascinating lens. Keep these coming, please.

    • profile image

      acregmed 5 years ago

      Great lens!

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

      Very interesting! Especially about the cow jumping. The women's beads will hopefully give them a way to provide for the continuance of their culture.

    • profile image

      Bartukas 5 years ago

      Great lens thank you

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens=)

    • alex89 lm profile image

      alex89 lm 5 years ago

      Great lens. I lived in Ethiopia for 3 years but I was in the city, and when I left I went to the Bale mountains and the ruins in the north of the country (Gondor, Lalibella, Axum ext.) so I don't know as much about this particular tribe. I do love the Ethiopian people though, whatever tribe they are from, they are friendly and generous in a way that you rarely see.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Was this lens ever published in the National Geographic magazine? Because it certainly should have been. Pinned this to my board called "Mother Africa". I think I'll pin some of your other lenses as well.

    • profile image

      miaponzo 5 years ago

      Very interesting people! Blessed!

    • profile image

      antoniow 5 years ago

      Another fantastic lens from you, well done!

    • wrapitup4me profile image

      wrapitup4me 5 years ago

      Fascinating lens. Thanks for this.

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 5 years ago

      Fantastic lense - well done!!

    • SecondHandJoe LM profile image

      SecondHandJoe LM 5 years ago

      Absolutely wonderful lens. Love learning about different cultures. I'm not sure about drinking blood but I'm definitely sure those headrests (pillows) just won't do! See you again soon!

    • VeseliDan profile image

      VeseliDan 5 years ago

      I've never been to Ethiopia, but I would love to go there once. *blessed*

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @Fcuk Hub: bravo peoples

    • ResearchAddict profile image

      ResearchAddict 5 years ago

      Wow! This is a very informative lens. Thanks for the great info.

    • profile image

      futurerudi 5 years ago

      Great lens. Thanks for information about people of Africa. Blessed

    • nikitakapoor profile image

      nikitakapoor 5 years ago

      Great lens!

      Do drop by my lens on Rajasthan (India) sometime and do let me know do you feel about them! :)

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 5 years ago

      To the hammer people of Ethiopia I'm sending only the best wishes. What a great people :)

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 5 years ago

      This was extremely interesting--I would skip drinking the blood.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 5 years ago

      Amazing. The geographer in me LOVES learning about various peoples around the world. Great page!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Blessed by a Squidoo Angel

    • NatureLuver profile image

      NatureLuver 5 years ago

      Thanks for teaching my about the Hamer Tribe.

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 5 years ago from Concord VA

      Thanks for this interesting information.

    • sponias lm profile image

      sponias lm 6 years ago

      I like to learn about different cultures in different places of the world. This is a beautiful lens! It deserves to be blessed.

    • bechand profile image

      bechand 6 years ago

      Blessed - I love a well written and informative lens - wish there were more !

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very interesting lens, thanks for so much work into this!

    • cajkovska lm profile image

      cajkovska lm 6 years ago

      I really enjoy your lens... Nice trip!

    • MelonyVaughan profile image

      MelonyVaughan 6 years ago

      What a beautiful lens! You should send it to National Geographic!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Good Work!

    • profile image

      PecjakJN 6 years ago

      Very nice lens and vey nice photos.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 6 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I enjoyed this lens so very much! It looks like a beautiful country with a different culture than most of us are used to. Thank you. Angel blessed.

    • RCGraphicsDesign profile image

      RCGraphicsDesign 6 years ago

      I am just floored by this fantastic lens. It is so neat browsing through Squidoo and learning things you would have never encountered. Thank you so much.

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 6 years ago

      Very much enjoyed my virtual visit to the Hamer people of Ethiopia through your wonderful lens, thank you!! :)

    • profile image

      RebeccaE 6 years ago

      a very interesting lens, thanks for putting so much work into this!

    • Zut Moon profile image

      Zut Moon 6 years ago

      Interesting lens.

    • juditpaton profile image

      Iudit Gherghiteanu 6 years ago from Ozun

      i did live in Africa few years and love any info about the fascinating African culture, your beautiful pictures and the nostalgia when i think about the most beautiful place on the Earth.

    • profile image

      Pangionedevelopers 6 years ago


      here's 5 like's

      Show me some" like"

      want to be like partners?

    • wheresthekarma profile image

      wheresthekarma 6 years ago

      Amazing pictures, thank you for sharing them with us. I love your cultural lenses.

    • profile image

      DJam1 6 years ago

      Thanks so much for looking at my Lens and I think you are doing a great job with this Lens see ya around. Doug

    • profile image

      DJam1 6 years ago

      Thanks so much for looking at my Lens and I think you are doing a great job with this Lens see ya around. Doug

    • greenmind profile image

      GreenMind 6 years ago from USA

      Nice lens! Thanks for writing about this. I learned a lot here...

    • ViJuvenate profile image

      ViJuvenate 6 years ago

      Fascinating lens. I wish I had all the time in the world to travel and get to know each region.

    • profile image

      myamya 6 years ago

      Great lens! Keep up the good work!

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 6 years ago from Pittsburgh

      I learned much today about Ethiopia and the hamer people. Stunning photography. Blessed**

    • profile image

      sheezie77 6 years ago

      Great lens! Thank you for sharing!

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 6 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      Your love for Ethiopia shows in every lens you make about this country

    • domain19 profile image

      domain19 6 years ago

      amazing lens... thanks for share... i learn much from this article...

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      The people are so fascinating! =D Thanks for visiting my Africa page - I think Africa is cool, too! If you write about your friend from Ghana's visit, let me know. I would enjoy reading it.

    • profile image

      crstnblue 6 years ago

      Wonderful lens! Very informative - text and images.

      Thanks for giving a chance to learn something new today!

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 6 years ago

      This is such a wonderful and elegant lens.. wow.. so thoughtful. Angel blessed!

    • ForestBear LM profile image

      ForestBear LM 6 years ago

      Wonderful lens. Very interesting to learn about the Hamer tribe, your Ethiopia lenses are fantastic!

    • ernieplotter profile image

      ernieplotter 6 years ago

      Very interesting lens!

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 6 years ago from Virginia

      THanks for the fascinating look inside Hamer life!

    • TheGourmetCoffe profile image

      TheGourmetCoffe 6 years ago

      Great lens. Ethiopia is a beautiful country with an amazing culture and great coffee too, by the way. Really enjoyed the way you covered the heritage of the Hamer tribe. Thank you for sharing your insights and great photos.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 6 years ago from Connecticut

      In spite of the pressures of modern society, these amazing people manage to stay true to their heritage and retain their cultural identity. May they prosper for another millennium.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thank you for educating me more about this fascinating part of the world! This lens is very well written and the pictures are fabulous!

    • iWriteaLot profile image

      iWriteaLot 6 years ago

      Oh I like this lens! Very interesting and well written. Not sure I like that tradition of beating their women but it does seem to have some spiritual meaning for them. But we hear such horror stories about people in Africa. It's nice to see something positive. Thanks for the real eye opener. Blessing

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 6 years ago

      Interesting to experience the culture of these people in this report. Nicely done tribute. Hugs

    • Northwestphotos profile image

      Northwestphotos 6 years ago

      Thanks for the cultural lens! It's important to acknowledge all peoples of the world.

    • profile image

      fullofshoes 6 years ago

      Beautiful lens.

    • profile image

      wiedruce 6 years ago

      wow..very interesting..great lens you have here!

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      Interesting and very nice lay out of the lens, really enjoyed my visit to the Hamer people in Ethiopia.

    • profile image

      sherioz 6 years ago

      What a wonderful, informative page. Great photos. Makes me want to book a flight right now.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I enjoyed all the pics. Super nice culture. Super liked. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      MyDestination 6 years ago

      Great lens, enjoyed reading it and looking at the really cool pics