Ethnic Diversity in Ethiopia


Ethnic group in the Horn of Africa, which resides mainly in Ethiopia, as well as in Eritrea and Djibouti. Their environmentally friendly lifestyle (sharing resources with animals) led to the preservation of the critically endangered African wild ass on their territory.

Population: 1,3 million in Ethiopia
Area: Danakil Desert in the Afar Region of Ethiopia
Cities: Asayita (capital of the Afar region), 407 km northeast of Addis Ababa
Language: Afar (part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family)
Occupation: nomadic pastoralists (goats, sheep, and cattle in the desert)
Religion: Islam
Typical Look: married women traditionally wear a black headscarf - a shash, the other cloths include the sanafil, a waistcloth - dyed brown for women and unbleached for men


Amhara is politically and culturally dominant ethnic group of Ethiopia.

Population: about 14 million
Area: central highland plateau of Ethiopia, provinces of Begemder and Gojjam, in parts of Shoa and Wallo
Cities: Bahir Dar (capital city of Amhara region), 578 km north-northwest of Addis Ababa
Gojjam, 300 km northwest of Addis Ababa
Language: Amharic
Occupation: farming (sheep), Teffe (an endemic Ethiopian cereal used to make enjera-bread, see Symbols section) creates Amhara staple food.
Religion: coptic monophysite Christianity
Typical Look: mostly white cloths, light blankets hiding the shoulders worn by the men, white dresses with wraps worn by the ladies


Arbore are actively involved as middlemen in trade between the Omo river region and the Konso higlands.

Population: about 15 000
Area: southwest of the Omo Region near the Lake Stefanie
Cities: Erbore village, 700 km southwest of Addis Ababa
Language: Konso (omotic language family)
Occupation: active traders (exchange cattle for agricultural products and worked iron)
Religion: Islam, believe in a Supreme Being creator and father of men called Waq
Typical Look: bodily mutilation of raised dots on the chest and abdomen


Shepherds living in the highlands of southwest Ethiopia who are famous for their colorful clothes with typical hair & body decoration

Population: 43 000
Area: Hamer Bena district, a fertile part of the Omo River valley, in the Debub Omo Zone, north of Lake Turkana
Cities: Turmi town (Hamer capital), 780 km south of Addis Ababa
Language: Hamer-Banna
Occupation: nomadic pastoralists (mainly cattle), fields of sorghumm
Religion: Sunni Muslim infused with traditional animism
Typical Look: they wear a clay "cap" that is painted and decorated with feathers and other ornaments, as for clothes they wear colorful toga-like garments


The Mursi women are famous for a characteristic custom - on reaching maturity; they have their lower lips slit and circular clay plates inserted. The larger the lip plate woman can wear, the greater her value when she is married.

Population: 4 900
Area: Central Omo region
Cities: Mursi village, 750 km south of Addis Ababa
Language: Mursi
Occupation: nomadic cattle herders
Religion: Animism
Typical Look: Mursi women are famous for wearing discs made of clay in their lower lips.


The largest single ethnic group in Ethiopia.

Population: over 25 million in Ethiopia
Area: stretching from the eastern border in an arc to the southwestern corner of the country
Cities: Adama (capital city of Oromia region), 99 km southeast of Addis Ababa
Language: Afaan Oromoo
Occupation: settled agriculturalists and nomadic pastoralists
Religion: Sunni Islam, Ethiopian Orthodox, Christian, Protestant, Original Oromo religion (Waaqa)
Typical Look: National cloths of Oromo men are woya (toga-like robes). Oromo women wear wandabiti skirts. Others wear leather garments or animal skin robes, and some women wear qollo and sadetta (cloth made of cotton).


The Sidama people are nation with a rich history, vibrant culture and long track of democratic systems of governance based on periodic election to authority.

Population: 3 million
Area: between Awasa town in the north and Dilla town in the south, spread out in a cone-shaped area of the middle of southern Ethiopia
Cities: Awasa, 270 km south of Addis Ababa
Language: Sidaamu-afoo
Occupation: subsistence farmers (mainly cattle), Sidama is major coffee growing area (producing coffee for Starbucks). The false banana or "enset", maize, as well as fermented cows' milk and butter, are the major staple foods. The rift valley lakes like Awassa and Abaya are major tourist attractions in the area.
Religion: mostly protestant Christian
Typical Look: Western style of clothing. Traditional costumes are most elaborate and colorful, including dresses, capes, hats, umbrellas.


Proto-Tigrayans were the main ethnicity of kingdom of Axum in the first millennium A.D. Their language, a form of Ge'ez, remained the language of later Ethiopian imperial court as well as the Ethiopian Church. Current way of life evokes images of Bible times: camels, donkeys, and sheep are everywhere. Fields are plowed using oxen.

Population: 4,6 million
Area: the northern highlands of Ethiopia's Tigray province
Cities: Mekele (capital city of Tigray region), 650 kilometers north of Addis Ababa
Language: Tigrinya
Occupation: subsistence farmers
Religion: Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Islam, Judaism
Typical Look: Tigray-Tigrinya people are descendants of early Semitic-speaking peoples (generally considered very beautiful people)

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Afar people, Danakil desert
Afar people, Danakil desert

Hamer boy
Hamer boy

A woman from the Bana ethnicA woman from the Bana ethnic

People in the South Omo regionPeople in the South Omo region

Konso fighter in Arba Minch
Konso fighter in Arba Minch

Old women from Mursi ethnic
Old women from Mursi ethnic

Mursi girl
Mursi girl
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