The Frequent Flier Christine Cunanan

One of my most exciting trips this year was a three-week journey around Ethiopia. We went to the northern part of Ethiopia, of course, which many tourists visit. The main destinations here are Lalibela, Gondor and Aksum.

However, I also wanted to see the south, which is famous for nature. So the second half of our trip was devoted to a road trip around southern Ethiopia.

Visiting the Dorze tribe, the oldest tribe in Ethiopia, in the mountains of Arba Minch.

WHAT TO DO IN ARBA MINCH

The first stop was the city of Arba Minch. It’s a new and nicely laid out city, with a Haile resort at the top of a mountain overlooking two lakes. This was one of my favorite hotels in Ethiopia.

I loved the views from the room at the Haile Resort Arba Minch and we ate every meal on the terrace. In fact, I spent as much time as possible outside, just gazing at the view. This really made me feel close to nature.

Visiting the Dorze tribe, the oldest tribe in Ethiopia, in the mountains of Arba Minch. We stayed at the Haile Resort.

One of the highlights of visiting Arba Minch is seeing the village of the Dorze people. The Dorze people belong to one of the oldest tribes in Ethiopia. They live high up on a mountain in a village with also offers traditional accommodations for tourists.

I loved the views from the room and we ate every meal on the terrace. In fact, I spent as much time as possible outside, gazing at the view. This really made me feel close to nature.

STAYING AT A DORZE VILLAGE

Visiting the Dorze tribe, the oldest tribe in Ethiopia, in the mountains of Arba Minch.

Adventurous tourists get to sleep in a typical Dorze hut. It’s simple but it looked so comfortable. In fact, when I peeked inside and saw the thick blankets on the wooden beds, I was tempted to stay the night too.

The Dorze also have a small shop selling organic white honey and handwoven products. There’s also a restaurant for the overnight lodgers since there’s nowhere else to eat but here, after all.

VISITING THE DORZE VILLAGE

Visiting the Dorze tribe, the oldest tribe in Ethiopia, in the mountains of Arba Minch.

During our visit, we asked a young Dorze man who could speak English to tour us around. The young man walked us through family homes with soil floors, mud walls, and thatched roofs. The cooking pit was the heart of every home in this high altitude, and the children’s beds arranged around it.

“There’s a small hole in the roof to let the smoke out,” explained our guide, “and the smog from the fire actually hardens the fiber of the roof and makes the house more durable.”


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WHERE THE ANIMALS SLEEP

Interestingly, each home also made space inside for their animals. The families basically let the cattle sleep in their living rooms.

“This keeps the animals safe and also helps to generate more heat for the house,” our guide said.

EATING A FAKE BANANA PANCAKE

Visiting the Dorze tribe, the oldest tribe in Ethiopia, in the mountains of Arba Minch.

At the end our visit, a Dorze grandmother who continuously flashed a toothless smile demonstrated the cooking of the local specialty. This was a pancake made from the grated stalks of a tree everyone called the “fake banana.”

The fake banana looked like the real one in Asia, but it had no fruits. However, the stalks of the fake banana trees are pretty similar to the real ones. The Dorze grate the stalks into a paste and bury the paste underground for months so that this can ferment.


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We sat in one of the huts to eat the fermented pancake. It was freshly made and slightly sour in taste. We ate it together with local honey and small cups of moonshine. Yes, the Dorze make their own drinks and these are potent.

Visiting the Dorze tribe, the oldest tribe in Ethiopia, in the mountains of Arba Minch.

MOONSHINE & FAKE BANANA

Although we never found out what was in the drink, the combination of all three made for a nice afternoon treat, sitting with some locals in a hut. Some of them could speak English so we asked them about their culture.

This enabled us to take away a useful custom of the Dorze people. If you fight with someone, they told us, all you need to do is to drink some moonshine from the same glass together to make peace.

Read more about traveling around Ethiopia in Travelife Magazine.