The Mursi are seminomadic pastoralist located on the eastern side of the Omo River near the Mago National Park in South Ethiopia. Sadly, the Mursi have a bad reputation among travelers and tourists. On the one hand for many visitors the Mursi tribe is one of the main attractions in Southern Ethiopia, especially the women with the huge lip plates. But often tourists are disappointed when they meet the Mursi people on a typical day trip because of their sometimes aggressive behavior. I experienced it myself being part of a group on a day trip to the Mursi in 2008. At that time I was wondering, if it would be possible to stay a couple of weeks in a remote Mursi village to witness the authentic and real life of the Mursi tribe. Over the last 2 years I spent 6 weeks in Suri villages and more than 3 weeks in remote Mursi villages, and I confidently can say: The Mursi as well as their related Suri neighbors are not only fascinating, they are also absolutely likeable, friendly and open-hearted.
There is a lot to learn about the Mursi, starting with the language, which is fortunately almost identical to the language of the Suri tribe on the western side of the Omo River. They are eager to teach the Mursi language to their visitors, but they are also happy to learn a few words English. On the website Mursi Online even a dictionary exists in Mursi-Amharic-English which is quite helpful for the communication. The dictionary was published by David Turton, Moges Yigezu and Olisarali Olibui in cooperation with the Culture and Art Society of Ethiopia in 2008.
The South Omo Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a unique and spectacular place, located in the south western part of Ethiopia. The Omo Valley hosts some of Africa's most fascinating and colorful nomadic and semi-nomadic ethnic groups like the Mursi, Kara, Hamer or Bodi tribe.
Many of the tribes, mostly small in size, are pastoralists and they practice flood-retreat agriculture along the Omo River. Until now the indigenous ethnic groups of the Omo Valley are some of the most traditional in Africa. But this can soon be over. The Ethiopian Agriculture and Rural Development State Minister Aberra Deressa claims: " .. at the end of the day we [do] not really appreciate pastoralists remaining in the forest like this ... pastoralism is not sustainable ... we must bring commercial farming, mechanized agriculture, to create job opportunities to change the environment."