Day17 – Mursi Tribe

The villagers from the Mursi tribe we are visiting live high up in the hills above Jinka. We traveled about 90 minutes on a mountainous, curvy dirt road to reach them. We pass alongside the Mago and Omo National Forests to reach their village. The national forests are squeezing the Mursi out of their lands,. They are traditionally nomadic but they are not allows to graze in the parks, although game hunters have free access.

On the way we pass a local Timket celebration of Epiphany where people are baptized in the river.

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Some of the Mursi line up along the road to see if they can get us to photograph them for 5 birr -25 cents. They have painted their bodies to appear attractive for the photographs.

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The older women wear discs in their lips. Many of them do not wear the discs because it’s uncomfortable, but they will put them in for a photograph. I saw a young woman whose lips were normal use a cord like dental floss to enable her to slip in a disc for photographs.


The experience of getting out of the van in the Mursi village is exciting and somewhat traumatic. The nearly naked, very dark people crowd around asking you to take their photo for 5 birr. The women and children poke at you, including your breasts and pull on your sleeves to get you to photograph them.


Their dress is exotic, including metal and horn headdresses.

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Their scarification makes interesting patterns on their bodies. They carry rifles to defend themselves against enemy tribes.

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It’s quite an experience to visit these people out in the middle of nowhere in the mountains of Southern Ethiopia. The Mursi are used to tourists. The people who live in this village make their money in the morning modeling for photos and drink araki in the afternoon. We were told to arrive in the morning to avoid disruptive behavior.

Once the dirt road currently under construction is completed, the experience will be even more touristy. I am glad to visit these people now while they still retain some elements of their culture.

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