People as Tourist Attraction

I remember the time when I went to the South Omo. I was fascinating by the beauty of the landscape. Dimeka is one of the famous tourist destinations in Ethiopia. The plants are greener than anywhere else I have ever traveled. You see the wild life as if they are created for you. I smelled awesomeness; I saw the beauty of nature being completely naked.

When my girlfriend and I decided to go there in the first place it wasn’t just because we were expecting to see beautiful animals – but also exotic people. These are people who can attract tourists with their life style. These people are not from this century. They are living in the jungle with the animals, rhythm with nature and flirting with mother earth. They don’t possess anything to destroy the nature. They burn trees. They need the woods for cooking. But the fertile soil replaces the trees faster than they can possibly consume.

This is what they do for living – just living! Every day they are dancing for the rain and the sun. They jump the bulls. They choose wives for their sons exactly how we chose a life for them. They burn their skin, the same way they burn the trees – they should fit with nature. We decided.

Why didn’t I see any school in there? More than 50 tourists visit this place every day. They shouldn’t get education, ah, and then they will start to wear cloths and stop piercing their breasts. It is boring. We already have a lot of people who wear cloths. Why didn’t I see any clinic? True, that they have adequate knowledge to heal their own diseases. How about diseases we bring to them? They are dying with sickness which never been a risk to us. They don’t deserve hospitals, because they should keep their culture.  They don’t have any where to go. In their world, no other place ever exists. And we are the tourists coming from the tourists’ land.

Why no one is talking about changing their lives?

In most tourist destinations (at least in Ethiopian case), both the government and NGOs don’t want to work in these areas to preserve the culture of these people. The same way how we preserve our parks and animals. This is the reason people are travelling all the way to Ethiopia; to see wildlife and the tribal-people. Yet, they are still people and they deserve to be included in the development plans.


  1. Grégoire · September 15, 2011

    As-tu seulement une fois pensé que ces peuples voulaient continuer à vivre ainsi! tu dis “ils ne vivent pas dans le meme siècle que nous”, mais si!! simplement ils ont leur style de vie, certe qui n’a pas changé depuis des siècles mais qui les fait vivre. Au nom de quoi tu veux qu’ils changent? au nom du “développement”?? ce “développement” qui a conduit nombre de pays africains à être aujourd’hui dépendants des pays riches pisqu’ils ont suivi au nom du “développement” un modèle économique que ces pays riches leur imposaient (je m’éloigne du sujet!). Une école, un hopital seraient une bonne chose pour eux mai ils ont réussi à vivre jusque là sans. Toute intrusion dans leur communauté au nom du “développement” amorceraient la disparition de leur culture. Ces peuples sont autonomes, ils n’ont besoin de personne pour vivre! Respectons leur différence et apprenons de leur savoir, ils ont surement plus a nous apprendre que ce que vous croyez!!

    • Ziman Ahmed · October 14, 2011

      apprenons de leur savoir mais donnons-leurs aussi l’occasion d’apprendre du notre!!! la culture c’est bien mais le développement qui éloigne de la misère et rapproche de la dignité c’est mieux!!!!!!

  2. eweket · September 15, 2011

    Grégoire, thanks for your comment. I don’t speak French. I translated with Google but I could understand your message.

    It is true that most of development programs cause harms than helping people to improve in their livelihood. In most cases, rich countries help poor countries in their own framework, in practice it doesn’t produce the desired development rather say small poverty reduction.

    After saying this, I disagree with you that I don’t believe these people chose this life. But we didn’t give them a chance to improve their livelihoods. I don’t like the fact that, just because they are tourist attraction, they have got less attention than their culture.

    Some tribe i visited. they even throw stones on the strangers. They officially protest that people shouldn’t come and see them. It has big message for us that, it is time to include them in development plan. And we have to educate them. Then, they will decide if they want to live the way they live now, or change their life style.

    what we shouldn’t forget – these are people. Not tourist ‘attractions’

    thanks for reading my blog!

  3. tewedajua · September 26, 2011

    men! u never fail to amuse me mark! it is a great perspective and seeing it from ur point of view its a very sensitive issue to be addressed! great job on pointing it out!

  4. eweket · September 26, 2011

    thanks teo! You are such a nice blogger as well

  5. Pingback: Ethiopia: People As Tourist Attraction · Global Voices
  6. Joan · October 6, 2011

    In my opinion, you are not focusing correctly you the problem, the thing is not whether development should be offered by the “Western society”, the problem is that tourism is destroying their culture.

    The topic is very interesting and complex at the same time, is actually a contradiction that we consider (my girlfriend and me) every time we traveled to a remote culture. We have the need / curiosity to visit the most distant and isolated cultures. We like, then, share these experiences with others but finally we believe it would be good for these cultures would not have tourism.

    In my opinion, the big problem of the Omo Valley (which is repeated in other cultures such as the Amazon, Socotra, etc) is that tourism that visit them is not responsible enough, people who visit the Omo valley spent a week visiting five tribes with their five market days, the modus operandi is “hit the market, down from 4×4, take some picture of indigenous people, pay for it one bir, buy handicrafts, gift pens and candy to children to finally get on the 4×4 and shelter in my resort, escaping from hassles.

    That kind of tourists simply ignore which is the socioeconomic reality of the zone, they don’t’ know that if you give a child a bir to take a picture of him, this child, at the end of the month can raise ten times what he earns his father cultivating the fields or selling cattle with the consequent destruction of the familiar status.

    What authority does a parent about a child who earns ten times more than he?

    The truth is that it is an issue that would for much more and, I repeat, it generates us many contradictions while traveling.

    • eweket · October 6, 2011

      Joan, I totally agree with you that the tourists (us) should visit the place responsibly. Your argument is crystal clear that i don’t want to add more on it.

      The corner i wanted to see the problem from is quite simple. Yes, it is interesting to see different cultures what different tribes can offer us. But this is not about us at all. It is about them! They know how to protect their own culture which made them unique and “a tourist attraction” though they are from this planet. They are under a “proper government” with fair distribution of development. Culture grows, modified and died. I wanted to emphasis for everyone to see them better than a tourist attraction, rather humans who need basic needs, education, development, health care etc….

      Domestic tourists (like me) and foreigner tourist might contribute a lot for the development of the country including the Omo Valley. (though, every footstep in their land has a huge risk – exactly like you said). Though, the NGOs and Government who vows to work for people shouldn’t sit and collect money from the tourist, and close every development door by the name of “preserving the culture”.

  7. Hana · November 3, 2011

    You made a great point.
    We rarely see older people within these groups. I feel the life expectany is very low due to lack of the basic needs.

    Goverments should stop in making them part of the tourist atraction and treat them as human beings with needs.
    Common to see tTourist take pictures of the people publish books and make money of it. I am tired of all the exploitation.

    All in thec name of preserving culture.

  8. Michael Alvaro · December 23, 2011

    Thank you for another wonderful post. The place else may anyone get that type of information in such an ideal means of writing?

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