Wedged between Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan, the Omo River valley presents travelers with an amazing world frozen in time. Away from any capital city and home to an extreme climate, it's one of the wildest places in Africa and where around 15 nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes live. Mursi, Karo, Erbore, Hamer transform their bodies into authentic canvases and I tried to capture their unique beauty.
The Erbore tribe is the most money hungry of all the Omo tribes. You've barely arrived to town and they are already asking for money. They follow you and hit you to get you to give them money. They see the camera in your hand and you have a whole village asking you for money. Actually it was a burden to visit this tribe which must be the distant cousins of the Mursi for as unkind as they are. Of all the tribes of the Omo the most genuine are the Banna, the Hamer and Karo in my opinion.
The Danakil Depression in Ethiopia is an unforgettable place full of landscapes that seem like they're from another planet. It's the home of the Afar nomads who roam the arid lands in their camel caravans, hauling blocks of salt from the salt likes to sell in the city. Dallol is one of the world's deepest depressions and the lowest point on the African continent (125 meters below sea level).
The Dallol salt lakes with their surreal colors and shapes really make you feel like you're in another world. There are incredible lakes of sulfur that shine in bizarre shades of green, brown, and yellow, fragile calcium formations and smoking geysers. The area, in fact, is home to 40% of Africa's active volcanoes, the most famous of which is Erta Ale. In the evenings or early mornings, you can scale the volcano to see the pool of lava in the crater while the sunrise/sunset lights up the horizon.
You start at Mekele towards Ahmed Ela via Berehale, where you need to pick up your permits to enter the Afar region. On the way, you see long carmel caravans heading the Mekele to sell their salt. There's now a new highway which makes the trip (5hrs.) to Ahmen Ela, home of the Afar nomads, a lot easier. It's an amazing experience to share the traditions and way of life of these people. The majority of the Afar as nomads who raise sheep, goats, cows, and camels. Here, a man's wealth is measured by the size of his flock.
But not all the Afar raise livestock. Many work in the Danakil Depression extracting huge quantities of salt during the dry season and later forming them into blocks. While some areas in Africa permit polygamy, the Afar are monogamous. Meat and milk are the main components of the Afar diet and milk is traditionally an important offering here.
The Afar live in camps surrounded by walls of thorns which helps protect them against wild animals and aggressive tribes. Their huts, called "ari," are oval-shaped and made of palm branches and can be easily transported. It's an overwhelming experience. It is literally like being on another planet...everything from the colors of the endless geysers to the salt and camel caravans...the active volcanoes and the unreal colors of the lakes...everything is in constant flux and full of life.
There are very, very few places as incredible as Dallol.
The Dasenech live in the north and east of Lake Turkana, and was one of the excursions that impressed me most from our trip. I was impressed by the lives of these people in a very hot place, where the wind blows and dust clouds lift and surround the poor villages where they live ... The government donated camels but officially state that it is a town that refuses to be productive and get out of its state of misery and neglect ... Well, hard to understand these situations from the outside, although the official complaint sounds suspicious. We were in a village near Oromo, this tribe's largest village, near the Omo River, a treacherous river that not long ago took over 60 people in the flood of rain. A harsh and inhospitable land ...
Just 7 kilometers away from Lalibela, standing at a height of 2,750 meters, is where you'll find the Mekina-Medhani-Alem, or the Church of the Savior of the World. The setting is spectacular. There's a valley that opens up right at his feet, a waterfall on the mountainside. The monastery itself isn't all that breathtaking, but they open their doors, the priest who is in charge us a "cleansing of sins" (with mountain water constantly falling roof-stone-mountain, passed the our heads, filtering with the Orthodox cross. then we take more water in the face, up to 3 times), shows processional crosses and one of the books, scrolls of s. XIII stored therein.
After visiting the hospital in Abobo, we continued by the road towards the south and we saw and visited several villages in wonderful wild Ethiopian vegetation. Most of the houses in these villages and traditional houses of Ethiopia are tiny circular huts that are used only for sleeping. The people of this area are the Oromo, the largest tribe in Ethiopia. They are Coptic Christians. The entire population of Ethiopia in general is very poor, but in this area even more so. There are just no resources. One of the things that struck me when we visited these villages is that to heat homes to sleep you create a fire inside, so, you can see some awesome fumes coming out of the huts (as seen in the photos). They have to be very careful because the slightest slip can burn your home, but mostly because many children suffer burns, especially to the head, because they fall asleep by the fire. They are incredible situations that only can come to understand when you visit these areas.
Itag is near Gambela and almost next to the border between Sudan and Ethiopia, so it has become a refugee town like Gambela but with a difference. In Itag many refugees are Nuer and Anuak not as much as westernized Gambela and still consevan ancestral customs. In Itag there are several areas. On one side are the typical African huts they are circular and made from straw. If there is a large family, they have several houses in a circle. The medium sized house is the place where they live commonly because they do everything outdoors except sleep. The other area you could say it is more westernized, here the houses are low and rectangular, and are built with wood, so they look more like the houses that we typically see. When we went it was rainy season, so most of Itag was completely flooded. Some people couldn't even access their homes without bathing first in a puddle. In this town there is little infrastructure, and no hotels, so it's best to bring a tent and stay overnight anywhere, because Itag is repelta vegetation.