Konso and South Omo
Fascinating ethnic tribes
These are in the far south-west of Ethiopia. You drop from the well watered slopes of the southern highlands to craggy Konso, and then on into the sparsely populated, unproductive land of South Omo. It’s a voyage into the past – the locals were largely unaware until after the Second World War that they lived in a country known as Ethiopia, in fact South Omo is a living showcase of what human beings were like in primitive times.
Around 24 tribes between them speak the four main African languages. Some of the tribes consist of tens of thousands of people, some only 500. The best-known tribe is the Mursi, renowned for putting large clay plates behind their women’s lower lips. In other tribes, especially the Hamer, Karo and Aari, body scarring and body painting will give you pause for thought.
Another important group are the Konso, who live in hilltop villages with a fascinating ancient culture and known for their generation poles and grave markers.
Travel here can be difficult because it’s all about meeting the local people, which can cause tensions. All the more reasons to use a reputable tour group such as Wild Frontiers which specializes in such encounters. The tribes people expect to be paid to have their photographs taken – it’s a significant source of income – and some even count the number of clocks of the shutter, upping the cost with each. An experienced guide will negotiate in advance and ensure neither side is ripped off.