Omo Valley Tour - Ethiopia Tours

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Omo Valley is undoubtedly one of the most unique places on earth because of the wide variety of people and animals that inhabit it.  It is located in Africa's Great Rift Valley.  The region is known for its culture and diversity.

The tribes that live in the lower Omo Valley are believed to be among the most fascinating on the continent of Africa and around the world. Tours are offered to several towns and villages.  It is often you come into contact with the following tribes: Arbore, Ari, Bena, Bodi, Bumi, Daasanech (Geleb), Dorze, Hamer (Hamar), Kara (or Karo), Konso, Kwegu (or Muguji), Mursi, Tsemay, and Turkana when you tour the valley. It is estimated that the Omo Valley is home to over 200,000 tribal people.  Among the ancient African tribes that live in the southern part of Ethiopia, there is a wide variety of wildlife as well.  Some of the animals that you will find there are the Bitis Arietans (venomous snake), crocodiles and hippopotamuses.  The two main national parks in Omo Valley are the Omo National Park and the Mago National Park which are home to the majority of the wildlife in the valley.


The Omo River runs through the valley and empties into Lake Turkana.  The river is an important resource and without it the tribes and animals in Southern Ethiopia would not survive.  In 2006 work began on the Gibe III dam.  The dam will block part of the Omo River which experts’ state will impact the ecosystem, tribes and animals that live in the valley.
After the earliest known discovery of Homo Sapien (Human) fossil fragments were found.  The lower Omo Valley and Lake Turkana which is primarly located in Kenya,  have both been declared World Heritage sites by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization or (UNESCO).

 The bull-jumping ceremony is conducted by the Karo, Hamar and Beshada tribes of the Omo region. The Hamar and Beshada tribes bull-jump regularly and a democratic system is employed which allows most men to bull-jump while they are young. The Karo are the opposite, a strict hierarchy applies and elders vote on who can bull-jump and a ceremony only occurs every 2 to 3 years.

 

 The reason the ceremony is so important to a tribal man is that once it is completed the tribe then allows him to have a wife and have children. Bull Jumping ceremony (Ukuli Bula) is the most dramatic and significant ritual, which represent a life-changing event for the young man (Ukuli) who passes from boyhood into early adulthood. First the boy to be initiated delivers invitations to his neighbors in the form of blade of dried grass knotted in several places. These knots are a calendar of days and each day the guest must untie one of the knots until the day of the ceremony arrives. The novice also carries with him a carved wooden phallus known as the bokko, which he hands to girls he meets along the way; they must kiss it three times as a form of blessing and then return it to him.

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Each young man undergoes an individual ceremony. On the first day several hundred guests gather, among them the maz (who are still single and have recently gone through the ceremony) who arrive in a long line decorated with feathers, necklaces, and bracelets and carrying long thin, flexible branches which will be used as whips. They participate in a coffee-drinking ceremony, which is regarded as a blessing. Their main responsibility is to help the initiate during the rituals of preparation prior to jumping, but they are also mandated to participate with him in various ways in the initiation ceremony itself. An early task, for which only the maz are ritually qualified, involves whipping the novice's young female relatives. The young women of the Ukuli family, highly decorated, their hair and bodies covered with grease (usually butter ),dancing and singing in circles, beg to be chastised by the Maz since in this way they can demonstrate the strength of their devotion to the boy. The more abundant and extensive the scars, the deeper the girls' affection to the boy who is about to become a man. On the day of the initiation itself, the maz are charged with the important job of steadying the cattle over which the novice must jump.

 

 Late in the afternoon, they line up some beasts side by side ,one holding the head and another the tail of each animal and hold them closely together in a specially chosen area which has a clearly marked symbolic entrance at one end and an equally clearly marked exit at the other. The most recently initiated Maz greased with oil and charcoal circles the animals. The ukuli then brought in, totally naked , his arms pinioned by two of the maz. When they release him, he runs speedily towards the cattle, jumps onto the back of the first cow and then runs across all the remaining animals. At the far end of the line he jumps down, turns around, then leaps back up again and repeats the routine in the other direction. Altogether he makes four runs and finally - if everything has gone well - the maz lead him out through the exit along with wild dancing and excitement. For the Ukuli to fall during the jumping is considered bad luck - and for this reason, great efforts are made by the maz to keep the cattle still.

 

A single fall incurs no penalty and is blamed on the movement of the animals. Any boy who fails to complete his four runs, however, will be publicly humiliated: he will be whipped by his female relatives in the middle of the initiation ground and thereafter, for the rest of his life, he will be teased, insulted and beaten by both men and women. Understandably, few novices allow themselves to fail in this way. After he has satisfactorily "jumped the bull", the Ukuli is considered to have put aside childish things and is allowed to join the maz - thus taking a vital step forward on the road to full adult status. In this intensely conservative society, true manhood is thought to come slowly. Indeed, the Hamar say that maturity is only reached when the heart moves into the eyes - that is, when the eyes see with the heart. Bull Jumping Ceremony is usually held from mid - July to first half of December. The ceremony lasts the whole day, but the most spectacular part of it begins in the afternoon.


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