Arba Minch

Overview

Introduction

This town, whose name means "Forty Springs" in Amharic, is not particularly attractive, but it's the best base for visiting several tribal groups. It lies 220 mi/355 km south of Addis Ababa.

To the north are the Dorze, famous for their colorful robes called shammas and their distinctive dwellings—towering beehive-shaped structures made from woven thatch. To the south are the Konso, reputed to be the hardest workers in the country. Their elaborately terraced hillsides grow some of the country's best coffee. The Konso are also known for their wakas, eerie wooden statues carved to honor dead heroes. (To earn a waka, a man must kill a human enemy, a lion or a leopard.)

Arba Minch is located between two lakes, so birds and other wildlife abound. On the outskirts of town, scenic Nechisar National Park protects groundwater forest dense with monkeys, a pair of large Great Rift Valley lakes thick with crocodiles, hippos and waterbirds, and open grassy plains inhabited by zebra and antelope such as greater kudu and Swayne's hartebeest, an endangered species endemic to Ethiopia.

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