The Daasanach live on both sides of the Ethiopian-Kenyan border. If they want to cross into Kenya, the removed lower front teeth are their passport. I crossed the Omo at Omorate with my guide Gabriel and his friend to reach the nearest village just before sunset, and it was a very enjoyable visit. No other tourists, the kids enjoyed my mbira again, and since I handed my camera to Gabriel’s friend I could freely move about and people cared less about me. Less posing as well. Things must have been similar to the Mursi situation until a while ago, but now the arrangement is such that visitors pay a flatrate of 200 Birr (ca $7.50) to take pics. The German lawyer who gave me a lift the next day had been to the very same village in the morning, in a crowd of tourists. He said that as much as he loves photography, he found the village arranged in such a way that half-naked women were sat outside their huts staring into the distance apathetically, and he refrained from taking any pictures at all. My experience was totally different. I was able to interact with the people to a degree, and I am very grateful to Gabriel’s friend for the pics he took – he’s a natural photographer, I must say. And I find the Dassenach are amongst the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen.
I had walked to the roundabout in Turmi in the morning on the the assumption that there was going to be some transport, possibly a regular bus, going to Omorate. Nope, I was informed by some local people gathering near the police checkpoint (a chain across the road), there wasn’t going to be any regular transport. And after some time it dawned on me that there wasn’t going to be much traffic at all. Perhaps one car every hour or so. Yet luck is on my side, and eventually I hitched a ride in proper style – on the back of a big truck, with a few other guys. The one in charge of the load (bags with maize or so, water bottles, all kinds of individual parcels and packages) asked the other two guys for the fare, and since I saw a 50 Birr note being handed around, I also gave 50. To my surprise, he gave me 20 Birr change, and the whole journey of ca. 72km cost me little more than $1. The usual price for regular tourists must be around $100 or so … I loved the ride in the open air, dressed up my usual Beduin style as protection against sun and wind. While the rough dust track had the truck lean to one side or another in sometimes scary angles, a few kilometres out of town the track gave way to tarmac, and I found the ride incredibly relaxing. How comfortable! – to do this voluntarily, and not to be forced to travel this way through the Sahel like the refugees in Niger and elsewhere, with all the vagaries and dangers that I cannot and don’t even want to imagine, I thought.
In Omorate I checked in at the police station, where I found a monster of a truck-turned-hotel with a German number plate, and an odd one at that: SE for Bad Segeberg, plus X, and the car goes by the name Bush Baby. Eish, very strange. The officer couldn’t or wouldn’t elaborate on why it had been stationary here for over month.
Omorate turned out to be very dusty and very hot, and I hardly slept at all during the night. The fact that tiny insects made it through the moskito net didn’t help. It was also one of the very few places where I saw a cockroach, though the one here had the size of a small mouse. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay, not least because I found Gabriel, who works as a local guide. He organized my trip to the Dassanach village, and invited me to his house afterwards, where his wife prepared food and – most importantly! – treated me to the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Oh, how I loved it!
Once we landed on the opposite bank of the Omo, and walked towards the village, a little boy came along and held my hand for the rest of the way. I was welcomed to the village with coffee, and I decided to hand over my camera to Gabriel’s friend, who made ample use of it. See for yourselves. I felt black&white increases the aesthetics of the pics, or maybe it’s just an expession of the artsy-fartsy in me 😉
More information about the Daasanach
Again, I pulled out my mbira and became a big attraction to the kids, and even some adults stopped by.
I was really touched by the calm and peaceful atmosphere when the sun set behind the mountains, and dusk entered into this remote Daasanach village. We had walked up a small hill, and to watch some kids playing around in the sand was really something else. Something very Romantic in my imagination, even though I am not at all sure I would even enjoy a whole day out here in the sun and the dust.