A Habesha dancer in Ethiopian costume - Image by msafari2425

A Habesha dancer in Ethiopian costume - Image by msafari2425


From the countries of the Horn of Africa; Ethiopia which is officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is home to the oldest human inhabitation in the lovely planet. This African country has numerous ethnic communities and has a diverse multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural society. There is also diversity in the geography of Ethiopia as the country has fertile agricultural lands, barren and driest zones and mountainous topographies as well.

Ethiopian tribes: Surma, Suri people in their tradional dresses. Image by Dietmar Temps
Ethiopian tribes: Surma, Suri people in their tradional dresses. Image by Dietmar Temps

The predominant climate type is tropical monsoon, with wide topographic-induced variation. The present capital of Ethiopia is Addis Ababa, which is situated on the foothills of Mount Entoto. Religion has significant role in the lives of Ethiopians as half of the population belongs to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and from the rest; a wide majority of population is Muslim.

A dance group of Ethiopia - Performing in their traditional attires - Image by aheavens
A dance group of Ethiopia – Performing in their traditional attires – Image by aheavens

When it comes to the Ethiopian culture, Ethiopia is a brilliant land with extraordinary antiquities and heritage. Although, it is bit mysterious, but it is very interesting to explore the Ethiopian cultural ethics. Most people in Ethiopia speak Afro-Asiatic languages, mainly of the Cushitic and Semitic branches. Overall, Ethiopians feel proud on their culture and they love to exhibit their traditional values, social customs and clothing. The people of Ethiopia have a tremendous variety of traditional clothing. Permanent features of traditional dress of Ethiopia which symbolizes the colors of Ethiopian culture include antique jewelry, particular hair styles and exclusive style of embroidery on the dresses.

The features of traditional dress of Ethiopia symbolizes the colors of Ethiopian culture. Image by 10b travelling
The features of traditional dress of Ethiopia symbolizes the colors of Ethiopian culture. Image by 10b travelling

The Ethiopian traditional costume is generally made of woven cotton and both men and women wear a typical Ethiopian costume which is called gabbi or Netella. These shawl type garments are worn in a different style for different occasions. Women often wear dresses like Habesha Kemis and netella with borders of colored embroidered woven crosses, but other designs are also used. In some central and northern areas, women’s traditional clothes are often made from cloth called shemma. It is basically cotton cloth, about 90 cm wide, woven in long strips which are then sewn together. The Eithiopian women normally cover their heads with shashes, a cloth that is tied at the neck. Shama and kuta, gauze-like white fabrics, are also often used.

A Habesha dancer in Ethiopian costume - Image by msafari2425
A Habesha dancer in Ethiopian costume – Image by msafari2425

Women in Ethiopia belonging to almost every ethnic group love to wear jewelry. Sometimes the ornaments are worn in silver and gold by both Muslims and Christians, and in the countryside, Ethiopian women are often seen with amber or glass beads incorporated ivory bracelets and anklets with other items.

A female dancer from Ethiopia performs a traditional Ethiopian dance. Image by UNAMID Photo
A female dancer from Ethiopia performs a traditional Ethiopian dance. Image by UNAMID Photo

The fashion industry of Ethiopia is now experimenting to make fusion of their elegant and unique traditional clothes with western and modern clothing pattern in their new dress designs. The exclusivity of the traditional dress being made with cotton or silk mix hand woven fabrics in various patterns and colors along with the individual embroidery is still popular in the modern clothes. Once the luxury clothes, that were considered only to wear on certain events are nowadays prepared to suit in every condition and made wearable in the day to day life.

Portrait of a Muslim woman in traditional dress from Ethiopia, Africa. Image by babasteve
Portrait of a Muslim woman in traditional dress from Ethiopia, Africa. Image by babasteve

Our story is yet not finished. Clothing of different ethnic groups and tribes in the south and west of Ethiopia is embellished with distinctive features that reflect their own traditions. Still there are some naked bodied tribes living in Ethiopia, while some of them although cover their bodies with animal skins but still, they are known to decorate their faces and bodies with wonderful images.

A Hamer woman from Ethiopia in traditional outfits. Image by opalpeterliu
A Hamer woman from Ethiopia in traditional outfits. Image by opalpeterliu

The Hamar or Hamer people in Ethiopia belong to the Omotic community who mostly live in southwestern parts of the country. They mostly depend upon the cattle herding and agriculture. Their elaborated costumes are mostly made with goatskins which are usually longer in the back as compare to the front. Women wear goatskin aprons or frocks which cover their chests and the dresses are usually decorate with glass beads.  Women adorn themselves with beaded necklaces, shell earrings and magnificent headbands. Both the Hamar men and Hamar women have unique hairstyle.

Afar women in the fields. Ethiopia. Image taken  by FAO of the UN
Afar women in the fields. Ethiopia. Image taken by FAO of the UN

The Afar people also form a major ethnic community in Ethiopia. They are also known as the Danakil and they mainly live in the Afar Region of Ethiopia. This is one of the earth’s hottest and driest spots, but also with some of the lowest temperatures on earth. Afar people are actually nomadic who usually move from highland to lowlands with the seasons and rise and fall of the flood waters of the rivers. The married Afar women traditionally wear a black headscarf called a shash or musha. For men and women, the main article of clothing is the sanafil, a waistcloth. Women wear a waist cloth up to their knees and wear a necklace. Some Afar women are still found bare-breasted in the remote Afar territories.

An Oromo woman from Ethiopia wearing traditional outfits. Photo by International Livestock Research Institute
An Oromo woman from Ethiopia wearing traditional outfits. Photo by International Livestock Research Institute

The Oromo people are the largest ethnic group inhabiting Ethiopia, about 95% of whom are settled agriculturalists and nomadic pastoralists, practicing archaic farming methods and living at subsistence level. A few live in the urban centre. Some Oromo men wear woya (toga-like robes), and some women wear wandabiti (skirts). Garments made with sheepskin robes are also common among the Oromo people. Some Oromo women also wear qollo and sadetta (women’s cloth made of cotton). People living in the cities prefer modern Western-style clothes.

The Konso or Konzo people of Ethiopia are basically a Cushitic-speaking ethnic group primarily inhabiting south-central parts of the country.
The Konso or Konzo people of Ethiopia are basically a Cushitic-speaking ethnic group primarily inhabiting south-central parts of the country.

The Konso or Konzo people of Ethiopia are basically a Cushitic-speaking ethnic group primarily inhabiting south-central parts of the country. Konso typically live in large towns, each governed by a council of elders. Konso is the first place in Ethiopia to be recognized as a ‘cultural landscape,’ a nod to its importance as a repository for biocultural diversity evolved over many centuries. The strong tradition of cloth weaving is evident in the vibrant and colorful clothing worn by womenfolk, though most young men are dressed in modern jeans clothes.

Ethiopian men posing typical East African dancing culture. Image by 10b travelling
Ethiopian men posing typical East African dancing culture. Image by 10b travelling

The Majangir or Majang people are considered as a scattered community who mostly live in the forests of Southwestern Ethiopia. The Majangir meet their needs through slash and burn farming, hunting, fishing, and bee keeping. The Majangir have over 70 clans, with clan identity passed down through the male line. Their traditional costumes are bright, colorful and having the similar nature like other indigenous tribes of Ethiopia.

Gumuz decorative facial scarring
Gumuz decorative facial scarring

The Gumuz are animistic, which means they worship the “spirits” of certain rocks, trees, and animals for good health, good crops, good luck, and protection. The Gumuz people hunt with bows and arrows. Most breed cattle or farm for a living. They farm their lands together as a clan.  Gumuz are actually a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting the Benishangul-Gumuz Region in the western Ethiopia. The Gumuz also hunt wild animals, such as duikers and warthogs, and gather honey, wild fruits, roots and seeds.

When the Mursi women reach the age of puberty, their bottom teeth are removed in order to get their lower lip pierced. Image by Marc Veraart
When the Mursi women reach the age of puberty, their bottom teeth are removed in order to get their lower lip pierced. Image by Marc Veraart

Surprisingly, we have three other ethnic communities who have female domination culture in their society. They are SuriMursi and Me’en people of Ethiopia who have almost same characteristics in their customs and living styles.  They principally reside in the Debub Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region, close to the border with South Sudan. What is noteworthy about them; they have strange habits of body modification and piercing. They have sharpened teeth, extending ear, lip plates, giraffe neck and patched Bracelet Nose as a symbol of beautification.

Beautiful Suri girl in Kibish. Photo by Dietmar Temps
Beautiful Suri girl in Kibish. Photo by Dietmar Temps

Mostly, this body modification is executed upon women. When they reach the age of puberty, their bottom teeth are removed in order to get their lower lip pierced. Once the lip is pierced, it is then stretched and a lip plate is then placed in the hole of the piercing. Having a lip plate is a sign of beauty and the bigger the plate, the more cattle the woman is worth. Some of the women of the Mursi tribe from Ethiopia are also required to wear ear gauging plates as well. The ear plates made with clay or wood are smaller as compared to the huge plates worn on the lip. This term literally means that the girl has reached into womanhood and has a more respectable stature within the tribe.

The Argobba are an ethnic group in Ethiopia who are Muslims in majority. - Image  by Stefan Gara
The Argobba are an ethnic group in Ethiopia who are Muslims in majority. – Image by Stefan Gara

The Argobba are an ethnic group in Ethiopia who are Muslims in majority. They are spread out through isolated village networks and towns in the northeastern and eastern parts of the country. Their livelihood is mainly dependent upon agriculture and they are primarily Semitic speakers. They are generally considered hardworking, self-reliant and apart from cultivation and cattle-farming, they are also involved in the trade business. They also move from place to place for trading and establish their towns along their trade routes.

The Daasanach are traditionally pastoral people. Image by Rod Waddington
The Daasanach are traditionally pastoral people. Image by Rod Waddington

The Daasanach are traditionally pastoral people who usually grow sorghum, maize, pumpkins and beans when the Omo river and its delta floods. Women are circumcised by removing the clitoris. Women who are not circumcised are called animals or boys and cannot get married or wear clothes. Women wear a pleated cow skin skirt and necklaces and bracelets, they are usually are married off at 17 while men are at 20. Boys are circumcised.

Harar Tribe women in traditional outfits - Photo by Rod Waddington
Harar Tribe women in traditional outfits – Photo by Rod Waddington

There are also many other ethnic groups in Ethiopia who may be having small population but still, they owe rare and unique lifestyle. Their cultural norms are though very fascinating and mesmerizing in their nature, but those are being vanished rapidly. This elimination is occurring due to the transformation of the lifestyle of these ethnic groups into modern ways of living. Traditional dress of Ethiopia is also a glorious aspect from the colors of Ethiopian culture which is also threatened to extinction due to modernization.

Ethiopian bride in traditional get up. Image  by Rod Waddington
Ethiopian bride in traditional get up. Image by Rod Waddington

For more interesting posts with the same subject on the Lovely Planet Website, please click the following links;

1-    Algerian Traditional Dress
2-    Traditional Dress Of Serbia
3-    Traditional Dress Of Kosovo
4-    Traditional Dress Of Libya
5-    Traditional Dress Of Morocco
6-    Traditional Dress Of Albania
7-    Traditional Dress Of Tunisia
8-    Traditional Dress Of Lebanon
9-    Traditional Dress Of Bosnia And Herzegovina
10-  Traditional Dress Of Azerbaijan
11-  Traditional Dress Of Turkmenistan
12-  Traditional Dress Of Kazakhstan
13-  Traditional Dress Of Kyrgyzstan
14-  Traditional Dress Of Uzbekistan
15-  Traditional Dress Of Tajikistan
16-  The Traditional Dress Of Laos
17-  The Traditional Dress Of Vietnam
18-  Traditional Dresses Of The World – 1
19-  Traditional Dress Of Jammu & Kashmir
20-  Ottoman Dresses From Turkey
21-  Colors Of Cholistan
22-  Cultural Dresses Of Balochistan
23-  Lehenga Choli Or Ghagra Choli
24-  Sari Or Saree : Traditional Dress Of Women In South Asia
25-  Ajrak , The Traditional Attire From Sindh , Pakistan
26-  The Traditional Tais Of East Timor
27-  Shalwar Kameez: The Popular Dress Of South Asia
28-  Churidar Pajama: The Favorite South Asian Attire
29-  Pakistani Bridal Dress
30-  Rilli, Sindhi Quilt Art
31-  Fantastic, Alluring Khussa Shoes
32-  Customs And Traditions Of Kalash Tribe
33-  Hanfu, The Classical Chinese Dress
34-  London Fashion Week
35-  Fashion Week Milan: The Glamorous Event Of Italy
36-  New York Fashion Week
37-  Paris Fashion Week
38- Traditional Dress Of Jordan
39- Traditional Dress Of Syria
40- Traditional Dress Of Afghanistan
41- Traditional Dress Of Palestine
42- Traditional Dress Of Oman
43-Traditional Dress Of Nigeria
44- Traditional Dress Of Hungary
45-Traditional Dress Of Ukraine
46- Malaysian Traditional Dress
47- Traditional Dress Of Kenya
48- Traditional Eastern Brides
49- Traditional Dress Of Bulgaria
50- Traditional dress of Uganda
51- Traditional Dress of Iceland
52- Traditional Dress of Croatia
53- traditional dress of Norway
54- Traditional dress of Finland
55- Traditional Dress of Philippines
56- Traditional dress of Denmark
57- Traditional dress of Belarus
58- Traditional Dress of Puerto Rico
59- Traditional Dress of Nicaragua: Marvelous and colorful
60 – Traditional Dress of Nepal: Whimsical but charming
61- Brilliant Colors of Dagestan: Really fanciful and imaginative
62- Kabuki: A classical and traditional Japanese theater
63- Boogie-woogie: A famous Swing Dance
64- Colors of Samba Dance from Brazil: So lively so amazing
65- Ho Jamalo: The favorite folk dance of Sindh
66- Odissi from the Eastern India: A historic ritual dance
67- Sattriya from Assam: A classical Indian dance
68- Fandango: A famous couple dance from Spain
69- Maypole from Europe: A fabulous circle folk dance
70- Cueca: The national dance of Chile
71- Traditional dress of Belgium: A charming European attire
72- Traditional dress of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
73- Colors of Kalash: 5 lovely images of beautiful Kalash girls
74- Traditional dress of Georgia: The fantastic Chokha
75- Traditional dress of Argentina: The warrior Gaucho costume
76- Traditional dress of Venezuela: Not complicated but decorated
77- Traditional dress of Latvia: Made with the Linen fabric
78- Traditional dress of Romania: So captivating and graceful
79- Traditional dress of Estonia: So classy and versatile
80- Traditional dress of Armenia: So colorful and diversified
81- Traditional dress of Angola: A symbol of the ethnic culture
82- Traditional dress of Austria: Dirndl, Lederhosen and Tracht
83-Traditional dress of Namibia: Far from the modernizations
84- Traditional dress of Zambia: Rare but unique in nature
85- Traditional dress of Slovakia: Kroje , decorated and cultural
86. Traditional dress of Qatar: Pure Arabian endowment
87. Traditional dress of Brazil: So bright and colorful in nature
88. Traditional dress of Colombia: So iconic in Latin America
89. Traditional dress of Chile: So artistic and cultural
90. Traditional dress of Mexico: Blend of indigenous and imported cultures
91- Traditional dress of Panama: The exotic Mola and La Pollera
92- Traditional dress of Cuba: A product of multi-cultural effects
93- Traditional dress of Bangladesh: So awesome in its nature and kind
94- Traditional dress of Indonesia: Featured with unique patterns and designs
95- Traditional dress of Pakistan: Legacy of ancient civilizations
96- Traditional dress of Russia: A symbol of ethnic diversity in the Russian Federation
97- Traditional dress of England: Outcome of the local and European clothing repercussions
98- Traditional dress of Mauritania: Fusion of Berber and African cultures
99- Traditional dress of Egypt: Legacy of ancient Kings and Queens
100- Traditional dress of Iran: A product of the glorious Persian heritage
101- Traditional dress of Iraq & Kurdistan: Offshoot of the ancient acculturation
102- Traditional dress of Costa Rica: A charming garb of Latin America
103- Traditional dress of Italy: A garnished garment with beauty and style
104- Traditional dress of Antigua and Barbuda
105- Traditional dress of Eritrea: Proudly worn by Eritreans


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.