Only at the second village things took their course. The Mursi stormed towards us when we got out of the cars, pulled and tugged, displayed scars, lips with and without plates, Kalashnikovs – Nobody wanted to be overlooked.
Since all the Mursi from the area had gathered here, all tourists came here as well. After a while the village was sizzling with people. Money was passed around constantly. The Mursi must be sitting on thousands of single Birr, all new bills. They would not accept anything else. If one is a bit torn or an old bill is shown, they get really angry, throw it in the dust and demand new bills. As it turned out, we truly needed our three escorts to settle all these disputes and regularly change larger bills once we ran out of small ones.
What do the Mursi do with this money? Obviously alcohol is one item, shaving cream another, as well as Kalashnikovs, for less than 100 Euros. And more cattle, of course! This is what they still consider their real wealth. There is no school for those villages and man and women are equally without formal education.
Now the Mursi come running when they hear a car engine, but our guide Matthew remembered different times. In 2002, when he first started taking tourists there, the Mursi were scared by the sound of an engine and hid in the bush. The guides had to lure them in front of the cameras. This fear stemmed from a period in the 1990s when the Ethiopian army arrived with helicopters to settle a violent conflict between the Karo and the Mursi over grazing grounds. Matthew described it this way: “The soldiers hunted the Mursi.”