The People Of Ethiopia

In order to discover tribes in Ethiopia you have to travel to the Omo valley, African’s tribal cultural heart land

The Omo Valley is a unique place for diverse ethnic groups with their intact ancestral culture. The lifestyles are as varied as the tribes themselves. Living for centuries along the Omo River, light years away from our world, these primitive tribes welcome you with generosity and sincerity. Meetings with these ethnic groups remain unforgettable .

The best time for a trip to the Omo Valley is the dry season is between mid-October and mid-March.

Among the most represented are; the Surma and sticks to fight (Donga)the Mursi and women trays, Nyangatom , Hamer and breaks bulls, Karo, Konso culture which has been classified by the World Heritage Unesco. Most tribes of the Omo Valley are experts in body painting , using clays and locally available vegetable pigments to trace fantastic patterns on faces, torsos , arms and legs.

Here’s a list of the tribes of Ethiopia

AfarArboréAariBannaBodiBorenaDassanechDorzeHamarKarayuKaroKonsoMursiNyangatomSurmaTsamai

Lets read a bit more about the people of Ethiopia…

1. Afar

The Afar, also known as the DanakilAdali and Odali, are an ethnic Cushitic people inhabiting the Horn of Africa. They primarily live in the Afar Region of Ethiopia and in northern Djibouti, as well as the entire southern coast of Eritrea. The Afar speak the Afar language, which is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic family. Afars are the only Horners whose traditional territories borders both the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden

2. The Arbore people

The Arbore people

The Arbore people live in the village of Trees who is the ultimate outpost of southern Ethiopia to face the Kenyan border . Seasonal flooding of the river Weito create an oasis linear , thin strip of fertile land to desert torn on which sported cultivate sorghum and corn indispensable to their survival . These banks periodically revitalized by the silt deposited , also provide good grazing for livestock, the second pillar of the local economy. Although they depend to a large extent these agricultural resources, Raised consider themselves more as pastors as farmers. Cows , goats and sheep , which are the unit of measurement for all business transactions , are essential to any man wishing to marry capital.

3. Aari People

The Aari people live north of the Mago National Park , around Jinka , and have 120,000 members. This is the tribe that has the largest territory in the area.

This lands are exceptionally green and fertile , which allows them to have diversified crops such as cereals , coffee or fruit. They also collect a lot of honey, which is often used as currency exchange , and have many cattle.

Aari is used at home and at local markets. The size of the Aari tribe is growing, and thus the Aari language has seen an increase in language use and development in recent years. The language is learned by all of the Aari people and some members of neighboring tribes as well. Many Aari speakers also use Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, or Wolaytta, the language of a neighboring Omotic people.

4. Banna People

The Banna people, (also referred to as Banya) are an Omotic ethnic group in Ethiopia inhabiting the Lower Omo Valley, primarily between the Weyto and Omo rivers. They live in an area between the towns of Gazer and Dimeka with the traditional area of the Banna being divided into two ritual regions, Ailama (which is around Gazer) and Anno (spanning from Benata to Dimeka).

According to the 2007 census, they number at around 47,000 individuals. They engage primarily in agriculture and supplement this by pastoralism, hunting, and gathering. They are mainly Muslim, however, several thousand are Christian, and they have their own king.

5. Body People


The Bodi (or Me’en) people are one of the groups living in the Omo-Turkana Basin, in the lowlands east of the Omo river. Bodi is the name that the government and foreigners use for them, but the Bodi people call themselves the Me’en. Me’en is an encompassing tribe for multiple groups, two of which make up the Bodi. Their population is about 10,000.

Among the Me’en people, the Bodi are the considered the closest followers to their ancestry through their practice of pastoralism. The cattle that these people raise are vital to their social and economic livelihood. The Bodi use cattle sacrifices in many of their cultural ceremonies. Cattle provide the dowries for brides; in addition, cattle provide food security for the families who own them.

6. Borena People

The Borana are one of the major semi-nomadic pastoralist Oromo Cushitic-speaking people living in Eastern and North Eastern Africa. Cushitic speakers have occupied parts of north-eastern and eastern Africa for as long as recorded history. There are almost 4 million Borana people, most living in Ethiopia.


Borana people are found mainly in Ethiopia (99%), but are spread from as far as: Northern Ethiopia  in Oromia region (southern Tigray Region), mostly in Liban and Dire, Kenya (mainly northern).  About 44% of the Kenya Borana live in Marsabit District, into Tana River District and Garissa District. About 80% of the Borana in Marsabit District live in Sololo, Saku, Waso and Moyale Divisions. Those in Isiolo District are concentrated in Merti and Garba Tula. Even as far south as Lamu Island.

7. Dassanech People

The 20,000-strong Daasanach (meaning ‘People of the Delta’) inhabit the southernmost region of the valley, where the Omo River Delta enters Lake Turkana. Despite the lake and delta, this is an incredibly dry region, with a desert to the west and southwest. Daytime temperatures easily reach 35 degrees Celsius.

As for most other communities of the Omo Valley, cattle are central to the lives of the Daasanach. Meat and milk are their staple foods. When they lose their cattle to disease, drought or raid by a neighbouring clan, they turn to the world’s largest desert lake for sustenance – hunting fish, crocodile and the occasional hippopotamus.

8. Dorze People

The Dorze are a small ethnic group inhabiting the Gamo Gofa Zone (formerly part of the Semien (North) Omo Zone) of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region in Ethiopia. They speak the Dorze language, an Omotic tongue.

According to Ethnologue, the Dorze numbered 29,000 individuals (1994 census), of whom 9,910 were monolingual. They primarily live in the southern parts of the country, though some have migrated to Addis Ababa and other regions. Many reside in villages near the cities of Chencha and Arba Minch.

Weaving is a primary profession for a number of Dorze. Their polyphonic multi-part vocal music features a sophisticated use of hocket.

9. Hamar People

The Hamar (also spelled Hamer) are an Omotic community inhabiting southwestern Ethiopia. They live in Hamer woreda (or district), a fertile part of the Omo River valley, in the Debub Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR). They are largely pastoralists, so their culture places a high value on cattle.

10. Karayu People

The Karayu (also Kerrayu, Karrayyuu) are an Oromo subgroup inhabiting the Awash Valley banks of Abadir and Merti area in central Ethiopia. They are pastoralists. Karayu neighbor the Afar and Argobba people. Karayu claim they originate from the extinct Harla ethnic group.

The Karayu also participate in the gada system , an African form of ancient and complex democracy , based on generational groups that alternate power every eight years . A gada cycle lasts 40 years. The gada is not only a political system but also a social institution that governs the life of the Oromo from birth to death. Today Karayu struggling to maintain their traditional way of life and face difficulties because they are relatively unknown group , both in Ethiopia and abroad.

11. Karo People

The Karo dwell along the banks of the Omo River (according to oral tradition, they settled at the Omo after following a red bull there almost two centuries ago) and largely rely on the river’s annual flood for sustenance – much like the ancient Egyptians who lived along the Nile thousands of years ago. The Karo predominantly practice flood retreat cultivation, growing sorghum, maize, and beans. They also fish and breed cattle and goats.

Surrounded by more powerful and wealthier tribes, they created a complex social hierarchy to thwart intermarriage and keep their lineages pure. Their neighbours include the Hamar, Bana, Bashada, Nyangatom, and Mursi. The groups have always traded amongst each other for cloth, beads, cattle, and food. The Karo are closely related to the Harmar tribe, who speak virtually identical Omotic languages. These two tribes are of the same ancestry and some of their cultural practices allude to a rich cultural history together.

12. Konso People

The Konso, also known as the Xonsita, are a Lowland East Cushitic-speaking ethnic group primarily inhabiting south-central Ethiopia.

The Konso are experienced sedentary farmers, only southwestern Ethiopia to engage in cultivation on terraces on the slopes of rocky hills . The dominant crops are cotton and different varieties of millet. The grains of the latter are ground by women, then processed into cakes which are the staple of the Konso Although the traditional features of Konso are similar to Cushitic cultures, aesthetic canons , crafts , organizing their villages and their agricultural operation mode differ . They have a cultural, social and economic entity of their own . They speak konsigna , close Cushitic language Oromo languages.

13. Mursi People

The Mursi (Mun, sg. Muni) live in the Lower Omo Valley of southwestern Ethiopia and number less than 10,000. Their territory of around 2,000 km2 lies in the South Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State (SNNPRS), roughly between the Rivers Omo (Warr) and Mago (Mako).

They speak a Surmic language belonging to the Nilo-Saharan language family. They share a common language, and frequently intermarry, with the Chai, who live west of the Omo and south of Maji.

14. Nyangatom People

The Nyangatom also known as Donyiro and pejoratively as Bumé are Nilotic agro-pastoralists inhabiting the border of southwestern Ethiopia and southeastern South Sudan and in the Ilemi Triangle with populations residing in both countries. They speak the Nyangatom language.

They are pastoralists but some that live along the Omo River are engaged in farming. Their diet consists of meat, milk, and some grain, and wild fruits. There is a single tribal language, Nyangatom, spoken by the whole tribe. However, they also speak the Daasanech language. The Nyangatom language remains a strong cultural bond which makes the Nyangatom very aware of their own distinctivness from all outsiders. They are warriors and are fierce people.

15. Surma people

Surma is a collective term for three ethnic groups — Chai, Timaga, and Suri Baale — living in southwestern Ethiopia. Suri is composed of three subgroups; Chai, Timaga and Baale groups (self-names), politically and territorially different, but all speaking ‘South East Surmic’ languages within the Surmic language family, which includes Mursi, Majang, and Me’en languages.

The term Suri is the Ethiopian government’s collective name for the Chai, Timaga, and Suri Baale as expressed in the label ‘Suri woreda’ (= lower administrative district) in southwestern Ethiopia, bordering South Sudan. The 2007 national Ethiopian census figures for ethnic groups distinguish “Suri” from “Mursi” and “Me’enit” (= singular of Me’en). Some authors have used the terms “Suri” and “Surma” interchangeably, or for contradictory purposes.

16. Tsamai People

The Tsamai people (also spelled TsemayTsamayTsemaiTsamako, or Tsamakko) are an ethnic group of southwestern Ethiopia. They speak a Cushitic language called Tsamai, which is one of the Dullay languages, and thus related to the Bussa and Gawwada languages.

According to the 1998 Ethiopian census, the Tsamai number 9,702. The number of speakers of the Tsamai language is 8,621, with 5,298 monolinguals. Many Tsamai use the Konso languagefor trade purposes.

Most Tsamai live in the Bena Tsemay woreda of the Debub Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region, in the Lower Omo River Valley and just to the west of the Konso special woreda. Many Tsamai live in the town of Weyto, which is approximately 50 km from the town of Jinka, on the Konso-Jinka road.

Most Tsamai are agro-pastoralists, herding cattle as well as growing crops. Many Tsamai women wear clothing made from leather. Many Tsamai men carry small stools around with them, which they use in case they need to sit down.

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Ephasini Lamabhudango