The people of Symien are the Amharas; their language is Ethiopia’s official tongue, Amharic (Amharigna). Most Amharas belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
With very few exceptions, the people of the region are farmers. Yet despite the hardships they face, they retain their pride and independence. They are suspicious of strangers although they will respond to overtures of genuine friendliness and respect.
The staple item of diet is barley, from which they make “injera”, the flat, spongy, sourdough pancake which is the basis of most Ethiopian meals. They also make bread (dabbo) from barley; they eat rasted barley (q’olo) for snacks drink barley-in the form of korefi, a mildly alcoholic beverage with the appearance of thick mud.
There is no marketplace, but the visitor who wishes to buy something can ask the locals. Sheep, chickens and eggs, local bread, and various grains are available at a negotiable price. One can also buy hats, baskets, and items of jewelry typical of the area. Shammas, or gabbis, the homespun cotton shawls which are worn by both men and women, are usually available only on special order.
Konso Cultural Landscape is a 55 square km arid property of stone walled terraces and fortified settlements in the Konso highlands of Ethiopia.
It constitutes a spectacular example of a living cultural tradition stretching back 21 generations adapted to its dry hostile environment. The landscape demonstrates the shared values, social cohesion and engineering knowledge of its communities.
The cultural properties including the traditional stone wall towns (Paletea), ward system (kanta), Mora (cultural space), the generation pole (Olayta), the dry stone terracing practices (Kabata), the burial marker (Waka) and other living cultural practices are reasons for Konso cultural landscape to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage.
The Konso have adapted a terrace agricultural system. These terraces can reach up to 5m high, retain the soil from erosion and create terrace saddles that are used for agriculture. They are the main features of the Konso landscape.
The walled town (Paleta):
The Konso live in dry stone walled towns (Paleta) located on high hills selected for their strategic and defensive advantage. The Knoso villages are remarkable for the beauty and simplicity of its workmanship, constructed entirely from natural materials, cultivated or constructed from the surroundings. The village is ringed by dry stonewalls, at least a meter thick and three meters high.
Cultural space of Konso located at the center of the main enclosure. Individual walled towns can have up to 17 Moras, which are connected to one another by footpaths. The Mora comprise an open sided sitting area beneath a huge thatched roof with a heavy wooden ceiling. The ground floor of the Mora is expertly paved to form a public area where the men gather to govern the village life. It is also a place for recreation, the youth may gather here to play, chat or relax during the day when they are not working.
Ethiopia’s largest nature sanctuary, the Omo National park is located, with belts of forest, hot springs and extensive wilderness.
Another sanctuary, the Mago National park, has been established on the eastern bank of the river, comprising mainly savanna. Both are far from the beaten track and virtually unexplored, and thus are place in which wildlife can be seen in a truly natural state.
On the fringes of the national parks, the lower Omo valley is home to a remarkable mix of small, contrasting ethnic groups—not only the Bume and the Karo, but also the Geleb, the Bodi, the Mursi and the Surma, the Erbore and the Hamer.
The Mursi and Suri, who combine basic subsistence cultivation with small-scale cattle-herding, lead lives of harsh simplicity, uncluttered by the pressures and anxieties of the modern world outside.
The Surma/suri and Karo utilize various clays and vegetable dyes to trace amazing patterns on one another’s faces, chests, arms and legs. Hamer women wear their hair in dense ringlets smeared with mud and ghee.
Karo and Geleb sclpt their hair with mud into extravagant shapes, topped off with a redochred mud “cap” to hold an ostrich
feather or two.
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