The road from Karat-Konso to Turmi runs through the territory of the Arbore people, who are famous for their colorful traditional clothes and their distinctive jewelry. One of the Arbore villages is close to the road, which has made it the very stop over for tourists marveling at this ethnic group. By now the villagers have become pros in extracting Birr for every click. Every click? They count them! For us this place was the true initiation rite for the Omo Valley “Ethno Circuit”. Once we stopped outside the village, hell broke loose!
Groups of girls posed and screamed the going rate per photo and per person, 2 Birr. So if five girls steps in front of your camera, it is 10 Birr. Of course, group photos are much preferred, because one shot brings money to a whole group of people. Changing the number of people in a group might cause confusion, because it changes the prize. This is when the local guides steps in and translate the newly calculated prize.
An absolute No-No is trying to pay with old bills, which are readily accepted everywhere in Ethiopia, but not by the tribes in the Omo Valley. They have a concept of what the bill should look like. If it does not, they throw on the ground and scream till the drivers or guides exchange them for new ones.
Although Heidi did not carry a camera, she was relentlessly followed around by toothless old ladies, who would not let go of her arm. Their only attire was a goat skin skirts and lots of jewelry. Children were not less enterprising. Often we had one child clutching to each of our fingers quoting their price for a portrait.
The whole thing just seemed surreal. Eventually we were glad when another jeep stopped and we were not the center of the attention any more!