The Mursi tribe of Omo Valley Ethiopia are predominantly pastoral but they also engage in limited agriculture. They live in approximate area of 1,900 square kilometers with an approximate population of 7,500. The altitude of Mursi territory varies from 460 meters to 1666 meters having semi-arid to arid climate. They have 12 clans. Omo Valley Tour and Travel offers affordable packages to these amazing people.
Cattle are the Mursi’s most prized possession. They measure wealth by the number of cattle they own and men name themselves after the color of their favorite cattle while women mostly are named after wild animals with attractive skin colors like giraffe, leopard, zebra, colobus monkey, kudu, etc. The Mursi tribe of Omo Valley Ethiopia are considered one of the wealthiest ethnic groups in the area as they own greater numbers of cattle.
Virtually every significant social relationship, most notably marriage, is marked and validated by the exchange of cattle. The dowry is usually a number of cattle (around 30-40) and, more commonly nowadays, a gun. This bride wealth is given to the bride’s father by the groom’s family. For this reason, female children are seen as a blessing because they will eventually contribute to their father’s wealth.
This doesn’t mean that male children are any less important as they will be responsible for looking after the animals. Despite their reverence for cattle, the Mursi also practice flood retreat cultivation and rain-fed bush-land cultivation. It has been suggested that if they were to be denied access to the Omo River they could only survive by becoming dependent on food aid. Their main crop is sorghum, but they also grow maize, beans, chick-peas and tobacco. They are also known to hive bees for honey.
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The staple diet of the Mursi is a kind of dry porridge made from sorghum or maize. This is supplemented with milk and blood (taken either directly from a wound made into the neck of their cattle, or stored in a calabash gourd). Although it is uncommon, the Mursi do eat meat, usually in times of drought or at ceremonial events.
The Mursi are culturally and linguistically similar to the Suri and they believe they and the Suri are one people. Inter-marriage is not unheard of. Their next nearest neighbors’, both linguistically and geographically, are the Bodi and the Nyangatom, with whom there is intermittent hostility. The Mursi tribe are generally a feared race and their reputation amongst tourists is no better.
However, if you look beyond the surface you find an inquisitive, audacious, jovial and welcoming people. Even in this most remote and inhospitable place there is resoluteness about the people – perhaps it derives from their simple determination to survive – and yet, underlying this tough exterior, is a lighthearted and frivolous community.