Alan Friedlob (Bellingham, Washington) & Mariann Kocsis (Baltimore, Maryland) write:
This April, we were fortunate to have spent about three weeks traveling with Overland Ethiopia Tours (http://www.overlandethiopiatours.com ). (Haileab Seyoum Beyene and his support staff)– in a private tour of the Northern Circuit, Rift Valley, South Omo, and the Bale Mountains. What impressed us is the social network Haileab and his guys have across the country. Everywhere we went—from Gonder to Yabello, warm greetings were exchanged through chance encounters with acquaintances of friends, and Haileab’s seamless connections with local guides opened doors to a better understanding of the cultural diversity that is Ethiopia. Haileab speaks Amharic, Oromaic, and Tigrinya; any of which may come in handy in helping guests bridge the challenges of Ethiopian travel. . As a guide, he listened to what we wanted to do—stopping at an unexpected market, listening to music, or finding high quality crafts and high grade coffee. He and his colleagues did everything possible to accommodate us. Haileab’s itinerary and accommodations were exactly as we had agreed. In one instance where he could not secure the hotel on our itinerary, he compensated us with three nights’ of meals at our next location.
Regarding our itinerary, I would like to suggest that you consider not visiting the Mursi people, or if you go, clarifying what your visit will entail, and then decide. As you are probably aware, the people of the South Omo Region expect to be paid for all photos. In the case of the Mursi, this practice has become extreme. It will be extremely difficult for a tourist to learn about Mursi ways as “photo,photo” will dominate the experience. Many world renown photographers like McCullin and McCurdy have captured the Mursi. Perhaps better to buy their books than contribute to the tribe’s self- exploitation. A difficult decision for some tourists.
Thankfully this is not the case for other people that you are likely to visit, even though similar pressures will be found. For example, the Key Afer and Dimeka markets are “must dos” but there are many other markets where you would be the only outsider. Haileab patiently negotiated the landscape with us, and we learned.
Again, if you are planning to visit, please check out Overland Ethiopia Tours. You won’t be disappointed.