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."
An utterly beautiful but still almost undiscovered place is the White Desert in Egypt, also known as Sahara el Beyda. If you ever have the chance to spend the night there under a full moon you probably will count this spot to the most beautiful places in the world.
Shining white limestone and surreal chalk rock formations cover the surface of the desert and gave the place the name "White Desert". Over a time period of millions of years the erosion gradually carved fantastical shapes into the limestone layers. The more solid parts of the rock became sculpted and appear in alien contours like giant mushrooms, pillars or even in bizarre silhouettes of animals like hawks, camels or ostriches.
Who doesn't know the Voodoo dolls with magic dark power from horror movies? Well, if you ever get an opportunity to visit the region of West Africa, especially Togo or Benin, then you might experience the real Voodoo, which is quite different from the picture we get from these movies. Voodoo is a traditional animistic religion and has its roots in West Africa, mainly Benin. The Voodoo was also spread around the world (mostly in slave ships), you can find Voodoo, sometimes as a syncretic religion combined with Roman Catholicism, for example on Haiti, Brazil, Louisiana or Puerto Rico. Vodun, Vodon, Vodoun or Voudou are all equivalent terms for Voodoo, which means 'spirit' in the Fon language.
Although the 'Voodoo dolls' somehow exist, the correct term is 'Voodoo fetish' in form of a talisman. The word 'fetish' derives from the Portuguese word 'feitiço'. A fetish is a creature, an object, a talisman or an amulet, believed to have supernatural or divine powers. It can be a doll like the well known Voodoo doll; however the fetish object can be virtually anything: for instance a crocodile, a snake, a tree, a flower or simply a rock.
In December last year I worked for a NGO in Livingstone, Zambia. My intention was to get an impression how the time of a volunteer would be and so I decided to add a whole week working for a community after a three week trip starting in Cape Town, then to Namibia, Botswana and finally to Zambia.
The Scottish missionary explorer David Livingstone was the first European who explored the Zambezi river and the Victoria Falls in the year 1855. After 1900, as a nearby settlement grew into a town, it was named 'Livingstone' in honour of the explorer. Livingstone is also known by a second, but more informal name, 'Maramba'. Actually Maramba is the name of the river flowing on the eastern outskirts of Livingstone, and a large township next to it. But the name is also used for a number of places in Livingstone and has even been proposed as a new official name for the city as a whole.
My job as a volunteer took place mainly in the township Maramba. I worked in community schools as well as on small community farms. Whenever our small white bus with the volunteer team entered the township, the kids followed the bus singing and shouting 'Mozungo, Mozungo'. 'Mozungo' means 'white man' in the language Nyanja, which is spoken of the tribes in the south of Zambia.