by Jenny Makepeace

hamers night danceDimeka Market is mainly of Hamer people. The women dye their hair with a mixture of ground red earth containing silica and rancid butter.

They sit in groups selling their products some are soil mixture, large  pots and tribal souvenirs.

Many of these are genuine artifacts like the pair of bells attached to rawhide which I bought off a tall rather shy woman dressed in skins.

She was persuaded to demonstrate where the bells were worn – around her leg below the knee – they were 50 birr, but she refused my note as it was dirty and old! A bit of negotiation with Girma sorted it out.

Men sell maize, sorghum and other foodstuffs from sacks and wheel and deal over goats. A very pretty black and white patterned billy goat was about 250 birr.

Also bought a tiny cow horn-bell with a nail for a clanger.  The smell in the market is pungent, it also very hot.  But a great experience.

We had a drink in a nearby café, where a western women was having her hair plaited by a group of little local girls.  Milk sellers were along a side street.

We’ve traversed a vast flat sandy plain which would be desert if not for the scrubby vegetation.  Many herds of cattle, though what they eat is a mystery.

Roads under construction as usual, but no evidence of anything happening – one JCB, one thorn enclosed Caterpillar in 150k.

The Turmi hotel is new and the accommodation still under construction. The spacious and well appointed rooms are several hundred yards from the restaurant.  33 degrees today, so no problem drying the dhobi.  Lunch on our own –  pizza and spaghetti with very good bread.

There is a clean toilet block near the restaurant and a group of five dogs – one chestnut and all fun and happy, provided with a large aluminum water bowl, lying about in the sunshine. They go hunting dik dik and baboons at night.

This hotel is Italian owned and shows. We are now assembled with the 24 Jews in a local open sided café waiting for a guide to take us to a Hamer dance.  The dirt floor is a mosaic of metal bottle tops.

The Hamer village is enclosed with thorn, their dance consists of a group of men jumping up and down and chanting. Five young women on the outskirts of the group approach from time to time and touch the men before retreating to the edge.

I thought it was a marriage ceremony but we are told it is to celebrate the harvest and goes on all night.  A fire is lit.  An ancient grandmother with breasts hanging to her thighs like long soft tubes had a cluster of little children around her.

There were some picturesque scenes of fat tailed sheep, goats and cattle coming into the enclosures for the night and dozens of naked children.

The Turmi has a generator after 6pm.  It seems so isolated here, yet at 4 am we were woken to a cacophony of sound – the Orthodox priests shouting. Unlike the Muslim call to prayer, goes on for hours, donkeys braying, dogs howling and cocks crowing.

Spoke to an Italian tour guide here last night who organizes small groups to visit unusual places – he is very upset that Yemen is having problems – several embassies were shut this week, as he went there last year and to Saquatra.

Jenny’s article on her exciting Ethiopian experience will continue.

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

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