Dorze Village

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Things to do


Date of travel

January, 2016

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To reach Dorze village, 2900m above sea level, we drove along a steep road from Chencha in southern Ethiopia. Along the route young boys performed native Dorze ‘hip wiggling’ dances and anything else they thought might tempt you to part with a few Birr. They also shouted ‘Highland, Highland’ – a former brand of spring water as they were desperate for empty plastic bottles to use to take drinks to the field.

On arrival, our guide told us the Dorze people are renowned for weaving, their unique houses and growing bamboo. We were shown three elephant-shaped houses made from bamboo, grass and a material called ensete (obtained from the false banana tree). As termites attack the houses, they reduce in height. We saw the main house, a honeymoon suite for the eldest son who is allowed to stay for 3 months and the third, smaller 75 year old house used as the kitchen.

Inside the main house was a mud bed with a raised section where two children slept (the rest slept on the floor), high backed chairs made from bamboo and animal skins. There was an open fire in the middle and pots made from gourds were strung around the walls. A high mezzanine floor held barrels of two types of home brewed beer of differing strengths.

At the back of the house ensete stems (from the false banana plant) were being stripped to create a green mush which would be fermented in the ground for three months until it smelled like blue cheese. We saw some ‘that had been made earlier’ and water was added to create a dough, which was flattened by hand before being cooked for ten minutes on a large circular stone covered with a banana leaf.
We saw cotton spinning and I discovered I wasn’t very adept at it as the yarn kept breaking. The children are responsible for picking out the cotton seeds which are replanted.

There was the obligatory shop full of brightly coloured scarves and I indulged in a little retail therapy and gentle bartering.

If you want a real Dorze experience in the village there were ‘guest houses’ with an al fresco stone horse trough as a bathroom. It was unclear where you went to the loo, so it’s not on my bucket list.

In a large communal room we tried the bread we’d seen being cooked earlier which we dunked in a spicy dip and honey. Drinks were brought out, a type of 45% proof Arak, which had to be knocked back in one.

Finally we walked for 15 minutes along a narrow track to the workers co-operative, established by an Irish NGO, where the weaving was done, generally by the men.
On our journey back down the hill, were even more children turning tricks and generally trying to stop vehicles by refusing to move from the middle of the road unless you gave them money. We stopped at a view point where yet more colourful weavings hung on wooden racks.

Back on the main road people (carrying large packs on their backs), cattle, goats and sheep were all returning from the fields to their evening accommodation. Likewise we drove on to “Paradise Lodge”: at Arba Minch.

Helen Jackson

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