Of course we had read about this “Birr for Photos” business that has evolved in the Omo Valley over the last couple of years. But no matter how well prepared you think you are, it is very challenging! Especially since it is never exactly the same, every village has its own rules. The only common denominator is Birr.
Unfortunately, we did not manage to negotiate “flat rates”, as we had done in the past, for instance in Masai villages in Tanzania. There, for 20 US Dollars per person, we could visit the village and take as many pictures as we wanted. This was a lot more money than we ever paid in Ethiopia, but the atmosphere was much more relaxed.
We had heard from tourists that the Mursi are pushy and demanding. So after our experience with the Arbore people, we figured if this is just the beginning, we need to come up with a “strategy”. And this was: we decided to simply stop being annoyed by this “Birr for Photos” business. Obviously over the last few years, it has become an integral part of visiting these ethnic groups in their villages.
No, we did not like it! It does not seem right! But the reason we travelled so far was to see these unique ethnic groups. They do not dress and live their traditional way because of the increasing number of tourists, but they have learned that they can make a bit of money with it. The amount we ended up paying for photos (2 Birr is approx. 10 Euro Cents, the “normal” price per person per photo) was peanuts compared to the 695 Euros charged for an 8 day tour to the Omo Valley.