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Karo Women, Omo River region, Ethiopia

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Karo women scarify their chests to beautify themselves. Scars are cut with a knife and ash is rubbed in to produce a raised welt.
Karo Woman, Omo River Region, Ethiopia

Karo Woman, Omo River Region, Ethiopia

Angela Fairbank

The Karo

The Karo, who number only about 3,000 people, mainly live on the practice of flood retreat cultivation on the banks of the Omo River in South-western Ethiopia.

The Karo excel in face and body painting, practiced in preparation of their dances and ceremonies. They pulverize locally found white chalk, yellow mineral rock, red iron ore and black charcoal to decorate their bodies, often imitating the spotted plumage of a guinea fowl. Feather plumes are inserted in their clay hairbuns to complete the look. The clay hair bun can take up to three days to construct and is usually re-made every three to six months. Their painted facemasks are spectacular.

Karo women scarify their chests to beautify themselves. Scars are cut with a knife and ash is rubbed in to produce a raised welt.

According to the Murulle Foundation, the Karo tribes' existence is somewhat precarious today. The inevitability of the encroaching populace and the introduction of modern weaponry has affected their already delicate ecosystem. Being the smallest tribe in the area, this group obviously struggles with direct threats from nearby tribes that have more gun power, greater numbers, and likely coalitions with one another.

More information about the Karo

Cultural Tours to the Omo River Region, Ethiopia

Many tour companies that specialize in Ethiopia offer tours to the Omo River Region. You can often add on a tour of some of Ethiopias famous religious and historical sights. Below is a sampling of itineraries which focus on the cultures of the Omo River Region.

  • Omo River Expeditions from Safari Experts. This is 14-day trip down the Omo River in Southern Ethiopia to Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya.

  • Intrepid Traveler offers a 10 day cultural tour of the Omo River Region in Ethiopia.

  • Photo Safaris offers a 17 day cultural tour where photographing the various tribes in the Omo River region is the focus of the tour.

  • Remote River Expeditions offer a 13 day and a 24 day tour of the Omo River region. This is a white water rafting trip combined with stays in local villages and bird watching.

  • Green Land Tours offers several different itineraries to the Omo River region and will accommodate special requests to view important ceremonies.

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