Volume1: 2009

Royal Legacy of Addis Ababa
By Jerry W. Bird

Ethiopia's Omo Valley
Muguette Goufrani

Perfectly, Privately Pemba
Manta Resort Profile

Journeys in North Africa 
Habeeb Salloum

East Africa Hotnews
Prof. Wolfgang Thome

Switzerland of Africa
By Muguette Goufrani

To Casablanca by Rail
Jerry W. Bird

Zulu Heritage
Daniel Dunn

Women in Tourism
Karen Hoffman

Ghana Grand Tour

Kenya Grand Tour

Luxury Vintage Rail Tour

ATA 34th Congress, Cairo

More Event Profiles


Editor's Blog

Africa Fashion
Muguette Goufrani

Food and Dining
By Habeeb Salloum

Book Reviews
Rick Antonson

Hotel Reviews
Karen Hoffman

Shopping Around
Muguette Goufrani

Air Highways Website
World Transportation

..Click above photo for pdf version of World Edition.

Journey to the Omo Valley in Southern Ethiopia
Photos and article by Muguette Goufrani

I am Ethiopia. Long before the Queen of Sheba, King Lalibela and other icons from the pages of of history walked my sacred land, an area many call the "Cradle of Civilization," visitors from near and far arrived to sample my diverse culture and mingle with over 80 ethnic groups that form a unique mosaic. Most Ethiopians speak Amharic, my official language, however many are very much at ease in English, Italian and Arabic when doing business. Friendly and fiercely proud of their ancient heritage, my indigenous people are an exotic blend of African, Judaic and Egyptian influences.

I am Ethiopia, land of many rivers. The culture of my Omo people is steeped in rich tradition and colorful history. Many of them live along the Omo River. To those who love adventure the Omo is famous for white water rafting, as it tumbles its way through a steep valley before entering Lake Turkana. From the water, varied scenery, with forests of tamarind, alive with Colobus monkeys and flocks of colorful birds confronts the visitor. On the savannah slopes against a brilliantly lit mountain backdrop, you will find waterbucks and bushbuck. At a riverside camp, you will encounter water fowl, hippos, antelope, baboons and even lions. Such a river adventure also provides an opportunity to visit indigenous tribes along the way, at places such as Tumele, one of the larger Karo villages.

Karo, Muguji and Mursi
The Karo people are outstanding in face and body painting, a common practice in preparation for dances and ceremonies. They combine pulverized white chalk and yellow rock, reddish iron ore
and black charcoal to decorate their bodies. You can boat to visit the Muguji tribal area for an immersion in Muguji culture. The Muguji trap small game and collect honey and wild fruits. Great fishermen, one of the Muguji specialties is hunting crocodiles. The Mursi tribe is famous worldwide for the clay lip dishes, originally worn by the women, as a means of avoiding capture as slaves. Just so you know, they remove the clay plates at meal time. Surrounded by mountains and three rivers, the Mursi homeland is one of my most isolated regions. Like the Maasai of neighboring Kenya, the Mursi have a fierce reputation as guardians of their precious grazing lands. The men often wore light scars on their shoulders after killing an enemy and have geometric patterns on their heads. For dances and ceremonies they adorn their bodies with white chalk. The Nyagatom live on the Omo River's western banks near the Kenya border. Numbering over 7,000, they have a war-like history. Small groups living along the Omo specialize in hunting crocodiles, usually from a light dugout canoes, using harpoons. The men wear a blue and ochre clay clair hair bun with ostrich feathers. The elders of both sexes wear a plug on their lower lip - the female version is made from copper.

Hamar Mountain Country The final chapter of an ideal river adventure would be a visit to the Hamar Mountains, home of my Hamar Koke people. Numbering around 30,000, the Hamar Koke are well known for their attractive body adornment and the practice of wearing an abundance of colorful beads. Women adorn their necks with heavy polished iron jewelry. Getting to know and understand my indigenous people is a life-enriching experience, that if combined with an adventure safari along the mighty Omo River, will be a double blessing. You can learn much more about my people and their traditions at various web sites listed in this magazine starting with http://www.africa-ata.org/ ethiopia.htm.

Overland Journey to Omo Valley

Ethiopia's lower Omo Valley near the Kenya border is home to a remarkable blend of ethnic groups. With lifestyles are as varied as the tribes themselves, each finds unique ways in which to develop and express its own artistic flair. Our journalist team of Ogo Sow, Mary Ellen Schultz and Syvia Mracky from the USA and myself representing Canada, had been anticipating this trip for months. As a reward we were amazed by the fascinating ethnic treasures discovered and friendships formed during this week long tour arranged by Her Excellency Tadelech Dalacho State Minister for Tourism, our gracious host.

Heading south from Addis Ababa, one of the first attractions on our tour agenda was a visit to the Crater Lakes at Debre Zeit and the three Rift Valley Lakes of Shala, Abyata and Langano, teeming with bird life - a colorful array from pelicans and flamingos to storks and assorted waterfowl. Later on we were impressed by the homes and cultural displays presented by the Sidamo

tribe. Another popular attraction was Arba Minch, which means 40 springs in Amharic. a tribute to the bubbling streams that spring up amid the undergrowth of a luxuriant groundwater forest. Here the Wolayta people welcomed us to their village, where they cultivate cereal crops, cotton and tobacco.

Their large, beehive-shaped huts are

adorned with one or more large ostrich eggs

perched near the roof as fertility symbols.

In the afternoon we entered the town of

Chencha for a friendly visit with the Dorze

people. This well known tribe is famous

for weaving and for their bamboo homes,

each with its own small garden surrounded

by beds of spices and cabbage and tobacco

sorghum and the false banana. Should their

dwellings begin to rot or become attacked by

an army of termites, the villagers dig them

up and sew bamboo struts around the base to

preserve the shape. The Dorze name is synonymous

with the best in woven cotton cloth,

a good reason why Chencha is famous for its

fine cotton gabbis or shawls.

Our tour group enjoyed dinner at Swaynes

Hotel, with spectacular views of the Chamo

and Abaya lakes and the Netch Sar Park.

Owned and operated by the Greenland

Group, this attractive hotel offers 40 guest

rooms, each furnished with artistically designed

Dorze furniture. The exterior of each

bungalow is constructed of bamboo and patterned

after the Dorze tribal homes with their

high roofs. Each unit is covered with bamboo

and the roof is thatched with leaves from

the false banana tree. The design in front

resembles an elephant trunk, as typical Dorze

style. We were impressed with the interiors

which reflect the richest elements of Ethiopian

Culture. Materials used are all ecological,

natural and originate entirely from the

surrounding area. There is also a naturalist

pathway to the underground springs, ideal

for bird watching and scenic views.

The lake shores and islands of Abaya and

Chamo are populated by farming communities

of the Ganjule and Guji, both of whom

also have developed ancient traditions for

hunting hippos. The Guji ply the waters of

Lake Abaya in the curved high prowed ambatch

boats, similar to those craft depicted

on the tombs of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

Surprisingly, an ambatch is capable

of transporting several full sized cattle at

one time and sturdy enough to withstand attack

by large crocodiles, which are present

in both lakes. Lake Chamo is a good place

to view crocodiles lounging in the sandy

beaches and sun with clear blue water of its

northern shores. Lake Abaya waters are reddish-

brown in color due to heavy mineral


As we soon discovered, the rainy season

can bring sudden flash flooding at low spots

on the highway and side roads. Our media

team had a minor incident when one of the

Awassa Ministry of Tourism vehicles was

swept away by the swift water. Fortunately

a small group of Hamar villagers arrived in

time to retrieve the vehicle from the rushing

current and help carry our luggage across

the river. These colorful young men and

women were fantastic, friendly and attractive.

It was a memorable moment.

Next morning's visit to Netch Sar Park

provided spectacular views of the lake,

with its variety of wildlife such as Swaynes

Hartebeest, Zebras, Kudu, Burchil's Zebra

and various species of birds. Lunch was

served in Arba Minch. We also enjoyed a

visit with the Erbore people, noted for their

extensive use of jewelry. In our afternoon

boat trip on Lake Chamo we had a close

encounter with hippos, and had a wary look

at the local crocodiles, which are among

the longest in Africa, over 6 meters. We

enjoyed dinner and a comfortable night's

sleep as guests of the Swaynes Hotel.

My special thanks to our driver Teshome

Kebede, guide Abdi Tenna Awassa, Green

Land Tours and the Swaynes Hotel.

This article will be continued in the next

update of this edition and on our powerful

web site: www.africa-ata.org/ethiopia.

htm/ You can download this complete issue

and others