A Window To Ancient Cultures.
by David Navais
The South of Ethiopia can be described as a window to ancient cultures and traditions. You could almost see it as a way of life that remained untouched for thousands of years.
Endless traveling in a jeep and all its discomforts are outweighed when one is able to share and experience life with rich ancient cultures. Hamer, Mursi o Suri' are some of the many tribes living in the area of the Omo valley. One of the most intense experiences you can have on a trip is feeling close to a different culture by learning from their traditions. But today there are several threats that endanger this living legacy of humanity and it is everyone's responsibility to protect it.
From the perspective of the visitor, there are dangers that are difficult to solve. For instance the construction of the massive Gibe III hydroelectric dam that could radically change the bed of the Omo River, which is the main hub of life in the valley. The government has forced tribes to move in the past, sometimes also in a violent way, selling areas to big companies that operate with large areas of monoculture while depriving tribes of their pasture-lands, one of its most important activities on the land for cattle breeding - it is for both a source of food and cultural activities.
As a tourist you have responsibilities when visiting these places. The main one is to always act with the utmost respect towards the people and the culture they carry within the you places you visit.
Unfortunately Ethiopia has popularized a type of "safari tribe" tourism. Here one tries to spot as many tribes as possible in as less time as possible. This often provides a superficial and distorted vision of the local reality to a tourist. Worse than that is that the tourists invade the homes and villages of local tribes. This results in an unhealthy relationship between tourism and local people. Tribal rights and privacy are further affected by the lack of control and infrastructure of the country.
Spend the time necessary in order to understand people and respect their culture. Only this way we are able to help the amazing tribes of the Omo valley.
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