I had many doubts if describe this place for you. My critical attitude to the tourists behavior in Africa worried me, that if this place became more and more popular, growing number of visitors would destroy it. On the other hand I’m aware that no matter if I publish one article or not, tourist will arrive to Dorze anyway.
If I can do something for this people, is appeal to you for respecting – not exploring them.
The most popular thing to do in south Ethiopia is to visit the tribes. The country is known from Mursi tribe, famous from wearing by woman large clay plates in their lower lips. But in the Omo Valley (south Ethiopia, remote region of the country) live many more isolated tribes considered worth seeing. And here is where the problem starts – “tribes worth seeing” – what is this?
I’m disgusted with the attitude of tourists who come to southern Ethiopia to take a photo session with “colorful people” who look beautiful and exotic in the pictures. Having such a photo is more important to many of them than simply meeting these people. What’s more, they do not even hide it. During my stay in Ethiopia I witnessed such situations too many times.
I was furious when groups of tourists (above a group from China) stopped on the road and attacked the inhabitants of nearby villages with their cameras. I was furious, feeling so helplessness but also a bit amused by looking at this professional, big, heavy equipment, which usually they were using.
When we had a flat tire once near one of these groups, I decided to document what is happening – they didn’t even notice when I took pictures of them.
Unfortunately, this business has been around for many years, having devastating impact on African tribes. Tourists give them money for this “service”, which then tribes spend on guns or alcohol (in most cases they don’t need money for any other things). Of course, the Chinese group didn’t behave differently. Money, money, money.
I’m against this kind of activity. That’s why during my stay in Ethiopia I consistently refused to visit any tribes.
Everything that was offered to us looked like a directed spectacle. That was horrible. Our guide and car driver couldn’t believe that we didn’t want to see the Mursi tribes – “this is why people come here from all over the world“, he was commenting. How devastating it is to local community, is a topic for separate article.
Here I would like to show you, that if you want, if you have a good intensions and a bit of will to search, you can find in Ethiopia true experience with locals. That happened to me with Dorze tribe.
Dorze tribe is a very friendly ethnic group living in the Guge (Gughe) Mountains surrounding Chamo lake, on the way from Addis Abeba to the south, on the direction to Arba Minch. I personally found myself there, because I was interested to know the plant called “false banana”. I knew from the internet investigation, that I will find it in the Guge Mountains.
Dorze people are best known from their cotton weaving and tall bee-hive shaped dwellings which are some of the most distinctive in Africa. I also read, that this kind of architecture is inspired by the elephant’s head, which lived there many decades ago.
What a sad memory – nowadays, you can’t find any elephant in the surroundings of Chamo lake. Any. What’s worse, going further south – to the Omo Valley, you will not meet them too. Environmental awareness in Ethiopia is very low, and the destructive economy of the human has shooed all this animals to neighboring Kenya.
Even though there are no elephants nearby, Dorze villages are beautiful.
- First, they are located in the mountains, from where you have amazing view for the valley of Chamo lake.
- Second, every Dorze village is self-sufficient, surrounded by the fence from false banana leaves inside with unique dwellings. The villages are full of greenery.
- Third, it’s very clean as for the African standards and it’s very calm. No one is attacking you, no one is asking you for nothing, no one is running after you. There you can really relax. It was a huge change after a few weeks of traveling around the country. Honestly, I was shocked.
There are plenty of things which you can do in Dorze villages. In the one I visited:
- You can plan the night in amazing bungalow called “Dorze Lodge” (run by Dorze people!!!). More info you will find here: http://www.dorzelodge.com/. I spent night there and the sunrise which we observed in the morning, above Chamo lake, was the most beautiful in my life. It was pure magic.
- You can take the local guide and visit the village. You can meet the family and if you want, you can not only see how they are preparing false bananas to eat, but you can actively participate in it.
- You can share a dish with Dorze people.
- You can admire and buy some local textiles. Dorze people are a hard working tribe renowned for their skill in weaving, bamboo carpentry and other traditional crafts. I bought one very cute, colorful scarf. It’s a great souvenir, because it’s hand made.
- You can REST!!! You can walk in the Guge Mountains and admire outstanding views of the Chamo lake valley. This is a magic place to charge batteries, rest and listen to your thoughts.
- You can pay for all of this, not because you entered to the circus with people in the arena, but because someone showed you a piece of their life, told you about it, prepared the food for you and gave you a place to sleep. This is fair.
Time spent with Dorze people was very authentic and charming. They were very natural, they didn’t ask for nothing and had a lot of dignity and proud of being who they are. They were open and shy at the same time, which stole my heart form the first sight. If you have in your plans visiting this part of Ethiopia, consider staying there at least one night.