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Patrissimo Mar 22nd, 2016 06:46 PM

Ethiopia Omo Valley tribes
We are planning a trip to Ethiopia and want to see the tribes of the Omo valley. I was wondering if the visits are very commercial and touristy or does it feel authentic?
Any insight is appreciated.

sundowner Mar 23rd, 2016 08:14 PM

I haven't been since 2011 and we started out on the less touristy side. At that time it felt authentic. Once we crossed the river it did feel more commercial. I don't know how it is now but I have seen many, many more tours advertised and pro photos from there. I'm guessing it is more commercial than when I went. But unless someone has gone in and built hotels etc the one side may still be less touristy. We stayed in very basic tents and had a cook for meals. (Don't ask about the toilet situation.)

But it will never go backwards so you might as well go now before it gets worse. :)

The tribes were still doing their traditional things for themselves - the coming of age ceremony for the young men but they also did traditional things just for us - the women in the singing wells getting water for the cattle when it had just rained a lot and they didn't need to get any water from the wells. They did it for us as photographers.

The tribes people were still wearing mostly traditional clothing but some were wearing bits and pieces of western clothing.

The dams on the Omo River were being built and the Chinese were there building roads.

There weren't any other tourists at the tribes we visited with except the one big ceremony where all of the villages congregated to celebrate. There were many tourists there. There were many tourists at the market day we went to.

It was an unforgettable trip and I feel very privileged to have been there at that time.

Patrissimo Mar 24th, 2016 06:03 PM

Your pictures are amazing! I believe that today one must pay for pictures:(
I think that you are correct-it will only become more touristy. We did visit the Masai tribes in Tanzania although it was touristy, it was interesting, however it was not out of our way. I think that I would be very disappointed to travel far and only see tribes performing for tourists! Thank you for your response, it was very helpful and we will probably go to see for ourselves.

sundowner Mar 24th, 2016 07:08 PM

Thanks, Patrissimo. We paid for photos, too. Did you see the trip report I posted here? I'll find a link.

You should definitely go see for yourselves. Be sure to carry your own stash of TP. :~)

sundowner Mar 24th, 2016 07:38 PM

Here's the trip report, warts and all. :)

And we paid 10 birr = 20 cents US$ per individual photographed. It was an insignificant amount of money. But we made the agreement before we took pictures.

luangwablondes Mar 26th, 2016 12:49 PM

In 1996, there were a couple villages where the tribe was charging 1 Birr for each photo. And that was only because Turtle Tours were encouraging their clients to pay them(what I was told), so they generated some income. Most the men were well armed, so paying was the only option. It made the experience staged more than natural. This was when there were very few if any tourists at the villages I visited. It wasn't the amount as much the way it was organized. Fortunately, the route I drove was way off the beaten path. I didn't spend much time(or Birr) at those villages.

sundowner Mar 26th, 2016 06:13 PM

luangwablondes, I imagine it was a whole different experience in 1996. :) The head of our group said the weapons had all been surrendered to the government the year before we went. We did not see any guns.

I read somewhere else that people paid the village chief plus each person for each photo. As more and more people/photographers go there I'm sure it will get higher and higher.

I think you have a little more flexibility than I do and I would love to follow your footsteps. :)

Patrissimo Mar 26th, 2016 07:51 PM

The couple of safari agents that i have spoken today that they are receiving more and more requests for trips to Ethiopia. I suppose that it is now less touristy than it will be! We are going to book. How about the northern circuit? Does anyone have any thoughts on that part of Ethiopia/
Thank you

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