"TURMI--Where You Can Step Back in Time 1000 Years" Turmi by ArthurR

Turmi Travel Guide: 19 reviews and 78 photos

Turmi - #1 Pick For Place to Visit in Omo Valley

Turmi should be the travelers choice as the #1 place to visit in the Omo Valley area of Southern Ethiopia. Only in Turmi can one truly experience the lives, culture and food of both Habesha as well as Hamar Societies. Turmi offers hotels with restaurants that meet the expectations and desires of all types of visitors! There are fine lodges for those who wish to sleep and be catered to as if they were still in any large city in the more developed world. But this is the wilds of Ethiopia that was chosen to visit, not Paris. So for those who understand this, there are hotels catering to those wishing to experience life and meals etc. as the local Habesha people of the town of Turmi do. These are simpler but completely acceptable facilities with prices that really do reflect that fact. The average starting price at these hotels is around $10USD. So the prices reflect what would normally be paid by the average Ethiopian traveler not that paid by an international tourist. Most travelers understand the difference in those two prices. Please remember that Turmi is NOT Paris or London. This is true rural living in Ethiopia. But that does not mean unclean. Cleanliness is a virtue that the people of this area strive to maintain at all times. Granted, one hotel might not be as clean as another might, but due to restrictions placed on postings here, the reader will have to check the hotel reviews for that information. All will be pleasantly surprised at the friendliness of the hotel staff personnel and their willingness to go out of their way to fulfill ones every wish. But what is not regularly expected is the friendliness and the complete acceptance recieved from the local Habesha people of Turmi as a whole. One can walk through the streets (if you can call them that) of the small settlement of Turmi and have ladies calling out from their yards saying, "come, bunna, bunna", inviting one to come to have coffee with them. At times this could involve a full coffee ceremony that takes about an hour. It starts with the sorting of the coffee beans, then the making of a fire and personally roasting the beans stirring them constantly until the exact roast expected is achieved. Then comes the grinding of the beans after which the coffee is brewed. For one to fully participate in the ceremony, it is hoped that three small cups of this strong but delicious brew be enjoyed. The Habesha have a name for each of the three cups served, abola, tona and finally baraka. Each indicates the strength of the cup of coffee, each having increasingly less strength. Good Stuff!! If one is invited for this it most definitely must be tried. Disappointment is not what will be experienced. The people of Ethiopia take their coffee very seriously. If an invitation is declined, the lady will probably not be offended, but she will wonder why her coffee might not seem appealing. It can be guaranteed that there are few if any societies as friendly as is found in and around Turmi.

Turmi - The True Heart of Hamar Country

Turmi is in the heart of Hamar country. The Hamar are quite possibly the most colorful and interesting of all the Omo Valley tribes. Any male travelers might be interested in knowing that it is internationally agreed that Ethiopian women are the most beautiful women on the planet with the Hamar women definitely leading the list!! There are three or four Hamar villages within easy walking distance of Turmi. Most travelers see walking as the preferred method to visit a village. That way full enjoyment of the timeless beauty of the scenery and landscape of this remote part of southern Ethiopia can be experienced. Every walk taken will bring a myriad of different things to be observed. Those things could include a new flowering bush, a different songbird to listen to or even a brightly colored lizard doing pushups on the sand. For those to whom walking might not appeal there are some villages that can be driven to. Upon arriving at a Hamar village and viewing how the Hamar live, one might feel that they have figuratively stepped back in time by a thousand years! But if the time is taken to show and express interest in the daily lives and culture of these interesting and colorful people, the travelers can expect to be fully accepted by the Hamar of the village. If a visit is for more than just a few pictures, the Hamar do enjoy sharing different aspects of their lives with their visitors. The guide chosen will be able to help with communicating with the inhabitants of the village. If so desired, the guide should be able to arrange an overnight stay for a single person, a couple or even a group with one of the families in the village. In this way visitors can more fully experience Hamar life by eating what the Hamar eat (it's quite good) and participating in their daily activities and finally enjoying a night's sleep as the Hamar do. Waking up to a sherka (calabash drinking bowl) of bunno will never be forgotten. This is a delightful warm drink made by brewing not the coffee beans, but the shells of the coffee. Hamar bunno is not a strong drink like the Habesha's bunna. It has a very light and mild, slightly cappachino taste with somewhat nutty, woody undertones. It is a taste treat to always be remembered as a highlight of the time spent living as the Hamar do.

Try to schedule time to be in Turmi on a Monday. This is the big Hamar market day. The people of all the Hamar villages in the area come together in the market square to trade goods that they have made, various foods they grow, cookware, clothing items and even firewood. Everything necessary in the daily lives of a Hamar family is represented. At the Monday market one can enjoy observing and listening to the bartering between the Hamar over various items and even be able to take part in this. After viewing the goods available and deciding what items are of most interest, the guide can be of assistance in approaching a Hamar vendor. It is then that the real fun begins. Do not just buy an item outright, this is when the haggling process is supposed to begin. The Hamar seem to kind of enjoy this 'contest' of sorts. Both buyer and seller try to see who comes out with the best deal. Just please remember that an item priced 200 birr is only a little more than $10USD. This amount means little to nothing to the average traveler but could very likely be a good week's income for a Hamar person. One of the 100lb. bundles of firewood, carried to the market by the elderly women sells for a grand total of about 60 cents U.S. So if one does feel that they got a very good deal on the first couple of items, then buy one more item and when the vendor offers a price then offer just slightly less than that and pay it happily. The one absolute, most important aspect of making a purchase at the market is to NOT be seen as the rich tourist!! All that will accomplish will be to make the Hamar vendor feel less than adequate himself. The flaunting of one's wealth anywhere always causes a feeling of inadequacy for the person observing that action and sometimes resentment as well.

The Hamar are Much More Like us Than Different

Remember that the Hamar, nomatter how 'backward' they might seem to the observer, were born with the exact same brain that everyone else was born with. Someone from the western world might be able to design a building, a better automobile engine or a piece of technology. BUT, in the case of a terrible sunburn would that same person know which plant, when heated, would relieve that burn right away? Would they know what leaves and blossoms to pick and boil to make an exceptionally tasty soup. What about knowing, in a dry year, to watch what the baboons do. The baboons can smell where water is close to the surface in a dry riverbed and they dig for water in that spot. The Hamar wait for the baboons to leave then enlarge the hole to get a days drinking water from that hole for their family. They are not less intelligent than those in more developed countries, the Hamar have just used their brains in a different way, more for survival. It is very surprising to realize just how intelligent these people really are. If a traveler, with their guide. find themselves where a lively Hamar conversation is going on and the guide interprets, it will be immediately apparent and very surprising how indepth these conversations can be. No matter what the traveler might initially think, the Hamar are much more like those of the more developed countries of the world than they are different. Hamar parents love their children at least as much as those in any other country love their own. They teach and train their children about life even more than most others in what is referred to as the western world do. A Hamar mother works to keep her home and her children as clean as possible in a world with almost no water to do so. They are a people who deserve every travelers respect, not just their curiosity. Keep these things in mind and any visit to the world of the Hamar will be a true life lesson and an experience like none other, not just another vacation. The writer hopes that travelers will pick Turmi as a destination and enjoy their time in what the Hamar refer to as 'aike pe' or 'land of the grandfathers'. And equally important is to please let friends know about the wonderful and interesting part of Ethiopia, where one can actually 'step back in time', that you "discovered.".

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Both the Habesha as well as the Hamar people are the friendliest most welcoming people I have ever been around.
  • Cons:It is a bit warm, but hey, this IS Africa!
  • In a nutshell:Turmi is my most favorite place on this planet. I'm considering moving there for GOOD!!
  • Last visit to Turmi: Jul 2012
  • Intro Written Dec 30, 2012
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Comments (1)

  • mickybleck's Profile Photo
    Oct 18, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Hi Athur,
    in your forum post you said that you lived in Turmi for a few months several times during the last years. I was there for a three day visit with an Ethiopian friend in November 2011 and there was a "white guy" living in a tent among the villagers across the river from Turmi town. That was not you by coincidence?
    (I stayed two nights in a tent on a villagers compound and I can really see why you want to move there.)

    • ArthurR's Profile Photo
      Oct 18, 2013 at 10:51 PM

      Hello Daniela, No that wasn't me. I usually make the Tourist Hotel my base so that I can have a secure place for my things and just live with one of the families in their hut when I am in one of the villages. I have stayed in Dambo village (the village you are referring to) and Gabo village (the village up on the hill west of Dambo) but mostly I stay in Kaina village which is 4 kilometers south of Turmi. I have been accepted as a family member by one of the families there. Thanks for your interest. Maybe you will return someday when I am living there full time. I am returning to Turmi the first week in November and will be there for at least 6 months this time. It is hot and dirty and dusty and there is no water and very little food and almost no communication with the outside world BUT I LOVE IT!!! It is truly the only place on earth where I feel totally content and happy. And by the way, the Hamar people gave me my own Hamar name which is Jakimba. I adopted a third-world baby boy 21 years ago who was born paralyzed from the waist down with Spina Bifida and his name is Jacob. In the Hamar language 'imba' means 'father'. So Jakimba means father of Jacob.

    • mickybleck's Profile Photo
      Oct 21, 2013 at 5:40 AM

      Hello Jakimba. Just thought so since the world can be so small. Yes, simple life and no communication can be luxury, I agree. And your prospects sound awesome, so I wish you a very happy time with the nice people and your Hamer family. My few days there were full of great and peaceful experiences. Enjoy.

ArthurR Visits Here Frequently!

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