The most recent census shows that the Amhara ethnic group in Ethiopia makes up 40 % of all Ethiopians. Simmilar percentage is attributed to the Oromo Ethnic group. Tigreans follow with about 8% . Note that all these three major groups have their own languages, norms, culture and ways of living.


The interesting part about Ethiopia is that the remaining small percentage of the population comprises more than 63 ethnic groups ( Click on Ethiopian nations and nationalities for a complete listing.). The diversity in Ethiopia is not to be matched by anywhere in the world. What makes Ethiopia unique is the fact that you will find people with a variety of skin color and physic. Each culture has its own definition of beauty, some more or less universal, while others are extraordinary to a stranger.

imageAfar hairstyleimage

Take these three examples to understand what has lured several tourists to visit different ethnics in Ethiopia. In the case of ethnic groups like the Amhara, beautiful looks, cooking skills and decency are, among others, the major criteria for a woman to be desired for communion. Among the Mursi in the Omo zone things are different: it is the woman who has managed to fit the biggest plate in her lips which is more desirable for marriage.

Mursi woman with plate in lips


What about men? In urban areas of Ethiopia desirable attributes are more or less similar to the rest of the world: decency, income status, acceptance in the community... are the major characteristics sought for. But in different parts of Ethiopia you find different kinds of hurdles that a man needs to successfully pass in order to be desired by women. The Hammers make a good example: a man has to make a hazardous run on the backs of lining bulls to be worthy of marriage( click here for details). Amnong the Mursi tribe where winning a series of bloody stick fights is a pre requisite to ask for a woman's hand in marriage. No less unique is the culture of the Bode tribe. In other parts of the world obeisity is often a source of teasing and stigma. For the Bodis it is the biggest asset leading to have a big choice of women. Men looking for a wife will dwell in forests for as long as a year with their assistants who feed them non stop until they reach maximum obeisity. Click here for more interesting details.


One should note that when talking about Ethiopia we are not referring to one culture but dozens. Yet there are some values shared among Ethiopians , others exclusive to one ethnic.

In a world where material and financial wealth is considered as a source of pleasure, Ethiopia is ranked among the poorest nations of the world despite progress in recent decades. Yet, Ethiopians can be described as one of the happiest people in the world. Suicide is rarely heard of and in the case where one takes place (ironically among the acculturated and well to do members of the society) it will be talked about for several weeks as an unusual occurence.

Urban areas are gradually showing signs of being under western influence and embracing several exotic values. In rural areas however Ethiopian cultures that have survived centuries remain intact. Social life is given highest priority and spirituality remains the biggest value.

Nearly all Ethiopian foods are eaten with fingers as they were centuries ago. In a rural family, members do not eat on separate plates but on one. This creates, according to sociologists, an enormous bond in the family structure.

Coffee is perhaps one of the other things shared among the majority of Ethiopians.Every meal is followed by a trational coffee ceremony, during which neighbors will be invited. Everyone takes turn in organizing these coffee cermonies during which snacks are served. These ceremonies not taking less than 1 hour are, among other things, therapeutic. Participants raise their concerns, worries, complaints ... whatever they have in mind. This process is an outlet which ensures mental well being.

While bond is strengthened in such a way with neighbors attachement with close and distant relatives remain intact. In addition to national hollidays, there are several religious festivities held every month.



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