The Ethiopian mountain plateau slopes towards the south, crossed by the enormous Rift Valley. The Rift Valley is essentially a huge crack in the earth, extending from the Middle East to Mozambique. The volcanic activity correlated to the formation of the Rift Valley is still partly present, as verified by the numerous hot springs to be found throughout the territory.
Against a background of totally uncontaminated (and sometimes inaccessible) landscapes, the land features a series of startlingly beautiful lakes, which play host to myriad species of birds, some of which are endemic to Ethiopia.
Two major rivers run down from the highlands, fed by the summer rains: the Awash runs towards the south-east of Ethiopia and ends up in the Danakil depression in a series of lakes. The other, the Omo-Gibe, runs southwards and into Lake Turkana.
The highly varied environment of southern Ethiopia contains a series of national parks: to the south-east there is the Awash River Park, to the south the Rift Valley Park, Nechisar National Park, Mago National Park, and Omo National Park.
The south of Ethiopia is populated by a number of tribes, with differing origins and strikingly varied traditions.
The Oromo tribe is the most numerous. Their painted huts are visible along the road running from Addis Ababa to Moyale on the border with Kenya.
The diversity and deeply rooted traditions of these peoples are unfathomable. They constitute an immeasurable cultural heritage for all mankind; unfortunately, they are exposed to the risk of a modernisation which may become dangerous.
The Sidamo live on the coffee plantations, to the south of Lake Awassa. The Borana tribe, further south towards the border with Kenya, raise the water from their wells while singing communal songs. Towards the Omo river, the Hamer women are proud of the scars that demonstrate their courage. The Karo, Desainech and Bume tribes display complicated hairdos of earth and feathers. The Mursi and Surma are proud of the discs that their women wear (gradually increasing in size with age) in their ears and lower lips. The Ari paint their huts with designs that they call batsi (“making beautiful”). The Konso sculpt their wooden totems (called Waka, which literally means “something of our fathers”), in order to place them on their tombs
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