by Bill Kray
The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is one of the oldest locations of human life known to scientists. Hence, it is of fundamental interest to anthropologists. Many praise the natural beauty of Ethiopians — women in particular — as if all have identical physical characteristics. You may instantly recognize facial features such as a high forehead, large inset almond shaped eyes, wide mouth, and symmetrically ovoid head. However, there is great diversity in appearance among the 13 regions and charted cities in the country of Ethiopia, located in the Horn of Africa. Northern Ethiopians, Somalis and Eritreans are often referred to as having a more ‘mulatto’ appearance.
Ethiopia is a multilingual society with around 80 ethnic groups — the two largest being the Oromo and the Amhara — and about 200 dialects. The principal Semitic language of the north-western and center of the country is Amharic, which is the language of Gondar and Gojjam, as well as much of Wollo and Shewa. Moreover, Amharic is also the official language of administration, and the language of much modern Ethiopian literature.
Ethiopia is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. Since Eritrea's independence, Eritrea and Ethiopia had a violent disagreement over the exact demarcation of their borders. In May 1998, Eritrea initiated border clashes that escalated into a full-scale war that left more than 80,000 dead and further destroyed both countries' ailing economies. After a costly and bloody two-year war, a formal peace agreement was signed in December 2000.
Several tribes such as the Bodi, Mursi, Karrayyu, Surma, and Suri embrace elaborate scarification on the face, arms or torso. They may be cut with sharp shells and thorns. Lip plates or earlobe disfigurement popular among Ethiopian tribes occupying the Mursi and Omo River Valley is a form of beauty and strength that is being emulated in the Western world. Omo tribes are also known for their face painting and headdresses. Various tribes may also bare riffles for hunting and protection.
Though you may see many images of bare-chested and intentionally scared indigenous Ethiopian tribes. A large number wear suits, live in cities, and drive automobiles in a modern society. Two of the most popular personalities of Ethiopian descent are Chef Marcus Samuelsson, raised in Europe, and his lovely wife philanthropist and model Maya Haile Samuelsson from Gurage, Ethiopia. It’s provides an interesting dichotomy to compare the Ethiopian tribes living off the land without modern conveniences.
Agriculture accounts for almost 41% of the gross domestic product (GDP), 80% of exports, and 80% of the labor force. Unsurprisingly therefore, the country has of both rural and urban areas. According to the International Monetary Fund, Ethiopia was one of the fastest growing economies in the world, registering over 10% economic growth from 2004 through 2009. Growth has decelerated moderately, projected to be 6.5% in the future – reflecting weaker external demand and an increasingly constrained environment for private sector activity.
The Ethiopian constitution defines the right to own land as belonging only to “the state and the people”, but citizens may lease land (up to 99 years), and are unable to mortgage or sell. Renting of land for a maximum of twenty years is allowed and this is expected to ensure that land goes to the most productive user. Population growth, migration, and urbanization are all straining both governments’ and ecosystems’ capacity to provide people with basic services.
Depending on the region, some peoples are dark, others light, with significantly different facial beauty attributes. As you examine this diverse culture captured in the Ethiopian Diversity Pinterest board, the expression, “looks Ethiopian” will certainly fade. We might refer to a specific region or embrace an appreciation for a wider body of African beauty.