A journey through Omo Valley Tribes / cultural route gives an extraordinary opportunity to meet some of the more remote ethnic groups of the fascinatingly diverse areas surrounding the Omo River in South West Ethiopia. While the Omo Valley is an area which has been on the “tourist radar” for several years for good reasons to learn about the varied ethnic group who inhabit the region- from the Mursi, renowned for their lip-plates, Ritualized wife beating & their bull jumping coming of age ceremony are an integral part of Hamer society and displaying an elaborate and eclectic selection of body decorations that embraces the full gamut of Omo specialties Karo & Hamer People.
South Omo is often portrayed as some sort of cultural Garden of Eden. This notion is unduly romantic. The Mursi disfigure their women monstrously. Ritualized wife beating is an integral part of Hamer society. Every year without fail, outbreaks of inter-tribal fighting- usually provoked by cattle disputes – result in numerous fatalities. In south Omo, such killers are not normally apprehended: on the contrary, they wear whatever mark of Cain is customary within their specific tribe with a warrior’s pride. But, while one cannot glossy over the harsh realities of life in South Omo, there is much that is genuinely uplifting about the sheer tenacity of this incredibly rich cultural mosaic, comprising some 30 distinct ethno-linguistic groupings, several of which number fewer than 1000 people. Romanticize or condemn it, South Omo is there, it is fascinating, and it is utterly unique.
It seems facile to label South Omo as a living museum. Yet in many senses, that is exactly what it is. Four of Africa’s major linguistic groups are represented in the region; including the so-called Omotic –speakers, a language group as endemic to south Omo as the Ethiopian wolf is to the Abyssinian Highlands. All in all depending on where one draws the lines, as many as two-dozen different tribes occupy South Omo, some numbering tens of thousands, others no more than 500, each one of them culturally unique.