People of Africa: The Hamer Tribe 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.
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.
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
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.
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!
From the UK, 15 days from GBP2,049 to GBP2,349 including flights!
Trip Highlights -Slowly navigating the Omo river -Meeting tribes at a leisurely pace with our expert guides -Donga stick fighting -Rift Valley Lakes
Cultural Tour & Photo Safari to Omo Valley. Depending on time of year and whether it's double or single room, prices start with USD 130 per day.
6 days/5 nights USD 725. From 2 to 20 persons
- African adventure tours
Cultural trips to the Omo valley, with or without camping!
Eric Hester - The Omo River Valley
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.
Many interesting narratives and pictures of the Omo Valley
Read more about the geological development around the Omo river
This site is dedicated to the different tribes and areas in the Omo valley region
- Survival International
This is a movement that works for the survival of tribal people.
- Philip Martin
Read about a travellerer's experiences in the Omo valley, as well as see his pictures.
- Brent Stirton
Fantastic slide show from the Omo valley
- Brent Stirton - the bull jumping ceremony
Click here if you want to go straight to photos of this event.
- John Kenny
More pictures and comments on life in the Omo valley
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.