Along the banks of the Omo River, in Southern Ethiopia, almost on the border with Kenya, lies the territory of the Dassanech.

The Dassanech have known how to adapt to living in rather extreme conditions; this area of ​​the Omo Valley in fact has a semi-desert climate and the possibility of cultivation depends on the flood of the river; when the waters gathered in the mountains come here and flood the fields near the river they deposit a fertile silt on an arid land with very little vegetation and high temperatures throughout the year.

Knowing how inclement and arid the climate is, we understand how one of the most important places in a Dassanech village is called "the great shadow"; this is where the elders and village chiefs meet to discuss and take decisions.

The great shadow is usually found at the base of one of the rare large trees in this area, it is an area forbidden to women and children who have not yet entered the age group of the elderly.

When a wife has to talk to her husband she must invite him to come out of the great shadow, she cannot for any reason violate that imaginary barrier and enter this place.

In the village there are also some areas that are called small shadows, here children can play while women find relief from the warm rays of the sun.

The small shadows are made by building a semicircular hut weaving the branches, they are about a meter and a half high and are covered with straw.

Inside the village there are also other collective meeting places, these are larger than the small shadows, here people gather to celebrate parties and ceremonies, or simply to exchange products purchased in the nearby market.

These places are wooden sheds, covered with grass and leaves, that offer a cool place to carry out activities.

The Dassanech village is enclosed within a fence of branchesthat protects the numerous huts, animal enclosures and shaded areas.

The huts are low and have a dome shape, they are made by weaving branches that are then covered with animal skins during the rainy season and with straw and leaves during the dry season.

Even if the huts are well ventilated, the temperature inside is high during the day, so people prefer to spend daylight hours outdoors, in small shadows or under collective sheds.

Recently, skins and straw have been replaced by sheet metal plates that have the advantage of lasting and repairing from the water but have the disadvantage of overheating in the sun and further increasing the temperature inside the huts.

The use of metal sheet was also dictated by the fact that the Dassanech have fewer and fewer cattle, as a result of the increasingly difficult living conditions and the difficulty of finding adequate pastures.

The Dassanech, unlike many African tribes, always cook inside the hut because they believe that both cooking and eating are private actions and as such must be kept hidden from prying eyes; this is a practice that unites them with the Masai of Kenya and Tanzania.

The Dassanech are polygamous, a man can marry as many women as he wants as long as he is able to support them; if a man marries more women, each wife must have her own hut, where she will live with her children, while her husband will move from one hut to another.

Each family, in addition to the huts of the wives, will also have a fence where the animals are gathered during the night; these are simple fences, made with wooden poles, in fact they only serve to contain the animals so that they do not wander around the village.

ethiopia dassanech omo valley exploringafrica safariav