We are at the Mago National Park in Ethiopia, we came here mainly to visit the Mursi but also to see this small natural corner; in fact, this morning we took a trip around the park.
We liked the Mago National Park very much even if you can see few animals, unfortunately many species have been decimated by poaching; we have lunch in a corner in the shade enjoying the peace and silence of this place.
After lunch we take the road that leads to one of the Mursi villages that are located within the park.
We drive a few kilometers, then we turn off onto a secondary dirt road, from the main road the village was not visible, while this track leads us straight to the Mursi village; we arrive, we park under a big tree and then we get out of the car.
We follow the advice of our guide and leave our cameras in the car because first we want to see the village in peace, while if we immediately take our cameras with us they would begin to ask us to take photos of them to get paid and we would not be able to do a quiet village tour.
Some visitors and some guides had anticipated that the Mursi, unlike other tribes, such as the Hamer and the Kara, are aggressive and grumpy so we prepared for the worst, even though we usually never had problems with any African population that we have visited, at least until now.
3 boys approach us who definitely do not wear traditional clothes and accessories, one of them on the other hand has a sort of blue crest on his head and they all carry their faithful Kalashnikov on their shoulders; they look pretty serious and look at us steadily, but Silvan immediately breaks the ice by telling the guy with blue hair "but you know you look like Balotelli?" he starts to laugh and we immediately become friends.
Our new friends enjoy teaching us a few words in their language, especially "achali" that means "ciao" and "jala" that means "friend"; now we are ready to greet everyone we meet in the Mursi languageand they seem very happy about it.
We go around the village with the local guide who tells us a lot about the structure of the village and the social organization, while our new friends follow us step by step; they seem happy with our interest in their culture.
The Mursi huts are built with woods that are then covered with straw or grass that is collected in the surrounding savannah; like other populations they cook outside the hut and, here and there, we see some fire lit under some pots.
The Mursi are breeders and lead the cattle to graze within the national park; it is the men and children who bring the cows and goats to pasture.
Women wear the famous lip plate, some have it smaller, others bigger, other women also wear it on their ears, even in this case we note that they are of various sizes.
We asked the guide and he told us that the Mursi women begin to put the plate when they are girls and, gradually, they widen the hole more and more; to widen the hole they use an ever larger wooden plate and, only later, when they reach the desired size, they wear the terracotta plate.
The labial plate, like the ears one, the ornaments they wear on the head as well as the deep scarifications they have on the body have only an aesthetic function.
After the visit to the village we return to our car and take the cameras and in a moment we are literally attacked!
Everyone wants photos and the reason is very simple, they charge for being photographed, they ask for 5 Birr, that correspond to 15 Euro cents; for us it is definitely a ridiculous figure, but for them it probably has great value as they crowd together to be photographed.
When we frame them to take the picture they pose, they have a proud bearing and a serious look; they are very beautiful and, one by one, we photograph them all, so they are all happy and we do not make distinctions.
Women in particular are very photogenic with labial plates, scarifications, various accessories and headgears; they are really very beautiful.
Even the village chief approaches to be photographed but also to introduce himself, we manage to exchange a few words with him, thanks to our guide who acts as interpreter, we are very pleased that he wants to meet us, he thanks us for coming to visit his village; later he poses for the photo with his proud warrior expression.
A woman, just outside her hut, sells the terracotta labial plates, both painted and with some engravings; we buy some as a souvenir and she seems really happy for having concluded a sale.
I can't say how long we stayed here at the Mursi village, we lost track of time talking and joking with them and taking pictures.
When we head towards our car to go back to Jinka, the whole village follows us to say goodbye and Balotelli and his 2 friends approach Silvan and make us understand that they want a photo with him, they also give him the Kalashnikov, that for them it is a very precious object; if this is not friendship!
The visit to the Mursi village was a great experience and we had fun joking with them, we didn't find them at all grumpy as many had told us, probably a lot depends on the attitude with which we relate with them and with the people in general, after all it is the visitors who sneak into their everyday life and into their lives, they have to do it on tiptoe and with respect.