The town of Karat-Konso is the gateway to the Lower Omo Valley. Its downtown is basically a giant roundabout, no kidding… There we picked up the permit to visit the nearby village of Mecheke, which sits on top of a little hill. It is not surrounded by one, but by several walls. Naturally the Konso, the local ethnic group of the same name, built these for defending themselves against attacks from other tribes. As the village grew, huts were built outside the walls, and at some point a new wall was built around the huts outside.
By December 2010, the village counted 2.600 inhabitants, most of which seemed to be children. There were children everywhere, of all ages. So we were not surprised to hear that the local primary school runs shift with classes of up to 70 students. We had agreed before hand to donate money to the school to avoid the annoying “Photo, 2 Birr” ritual. Nevertheless the children tried to illicit money from us by whispering, gesturing, tugging your shirts, when they felt that the guide was not looking.
The lay-out of this village is truly unique, a few gates allow entry and once inside a maze of shady, narrow lanes circle the village.
Carved wooden grave markers are another distinctive feature of Konso culture. We only saw some new ones inside a family compound. Matthew told us the tourist office is collecting the old ones to avoid theft and selling to tourists.
Back in Karat-Konso we stopped in the center (by that we mean the roundabout), when we suddenly were surrounded by honking motor-bikes, cars and trucks jammed with screaming and singing children. Soon the purpose of this commotion became obvious – a wedding party was approaching. We jumped right into the middle of this mayhem to snap photos which increased the volume of the singing and screaming by a few good notches.