December 01, 2008

The Mystery of the Abyssinian Cat Pedigree

Below is Proof that the Abyssinian Cat originated from Ethiopia as reported by Harpers Weekly issue of 1872; A description of the history is in the last paragraph of the article



This is the brief story of the breed of cats known as the Abyssinian cat of Ethiopia, a creature shrouded in Mystery and intrigue. It may be a new species that cropped out of the ordinary tabby kitten or a creation of a completely new species from a genetic freak event or the introduction of an unknown species that just looked like an ordinary cat, known only by the observing eyes of an expert. This is the story of the Abyssinian cat of Ethiopia that wandered to England from Ethiopia with the gentle care of a British soldier, a certain Captain Barrett Leonard, after the battle of Magdala of 1868 in Ethiopia and the suicide of the great Ethiopian Emperor Atse Tewodros. The records of these events in England or in Abyssinia exists but the story that was passed down orally also continues to this day. The photo above shows the Abyssinian Cat (lower right) in 1872 Harpers Weekly (Original Page is with Ethiopedia and can be purchased for 200 dollars or highest bidder).
The Abyssinian cat is considered as one of the smartest and gentlest of all cats but unfortunately the origin still remains in question or at best murky. It is not surprising when it comes to things out of Africa; questions are either artificially created or outright perceived or interpreted differently. No doubt, this is just another form of cultural or scientific discrimination that is constantly thrown in the faces of the just and peaceful people of Ethiopia.
The Abyssinian cat, as it is officially known, is one of the oldest breed of the cat family. It was found to be closely related to the ancient Egyptian Cats after careful anatomical studies of the ears, body structure and head. The home of the Abyssinian cat is Ethiopia. The Aby, as it is affectionately called by the English, is a Wild African Cat similar to wild cats in North Africa called Felis Lybica. The first of these cats out of Africa was aptly named Zula, a geographic location in Ethiopia near the Red Sea.
The fur is ticked with black or brown making the cat very unusual. In fact, sometimes the hair is ticked with four different colored ticks. The Abyssinian cat was renamed as a British Tick or a Bunny Cat after many discussions by the cat fanciers considered its origin to be from the British tabby cats rather from Ethiopia.Domestic cats are rare in Ethiopia or so it appeared to the British. In 1805, Henry Salt indicated in his travels in Ethiopia that every household had cats. He did not describe them in great detail. The British however perceived that the Ethiopians, as eaters of raw meat, to never have been animal lovers nor keep pets. This perception led to disagreements in 1900 about the origin of these cats and an attempt to rename the Abyssinian Cat as British Ticked Cat or Bunny Cat. This attempt failed after greater interest and examination of the cat by cat lovers and further discoveries of these cats in Ethiopia. The name Abyssinian refused to disappear and ever since these cats remained as Abyssinian cats.
In order to preserve these ancient looking cats from the ravages of war, a stock of Abyssinian cats was also sent to America during World War II where registration of the cats began. Another pair was imported from England to the United States in 1935. Unfortunately, it died as a kitten. The best Abyssinian cat in England, called Ras Seyoum, was imported from England to the United States in1938. This incident caused a great uproar in England because the United States was now becoming a center for the interest in these unusual and rare Ethiopian cats.
Is Abyssinian a breeder’s creation? Most likely it is a mixture of a British tabby and an the wild African cat (more accurately an Ethiopian Wild Cat) and a domestic cat. Felis Lybica, the Wild African Cat (more accurately an Ethiopian Wild Cat not yet known or discovered), lives in the Abyssinian breed and is the ancestor of the cats of Egypt Western Europe Greece and Rome. Proof that Abyssinian cat exists in Ethiopia is the birth in 1957 in Addis Ababa of a cat whose father was a wild cat and mother a domestic cat. The MacGuires, teachers at the Haile Sellassie I Day School adapted this cat as a pet. His name was Smokey P. and an exit visa had to name him as a Pelt (skin) with a live animal inside. Finally after a wild trip through Egypt, Europe and New York the cat ended up in his new home in Massachusetts.
The advances in DNA technology developed species identification of any living organism including the cat. Recent results have concluded that in fact the Abyssinian cat’s origin is in India not Ethiopia. The question however is where the Indian cat did originate from if there is any truth in the study? There seems to be more questions raised than answered! Apparently a ticked cat in the Leiden Zoological Museum in Holland was obtained from India in 1834 and labeled Patrie Domestica India and that the modern Abyssinian cats came from these cats. DNA also shows genetic similarities between the Abyssinian and the Indian cats.
Ethiopian Wild Cats Discovered!! If you want to make heads turn try to locate the unique Abyssinian Cats in the wilds of Ethiopia. Do not confuse the cats with the more common domestic Talian and Engliz cats. Study the characteristics of the image on this website (see above image).


Journey from the Blue Nile A History of the Abyssinian Cat by Aida Bartleman Zanetti, Elinor Dennis and Mary E. Hantzmon, United Abyssinian Club, Inc. 1960. Image of ruddy Abyssinian Cat

November 20, 2008

Extinction of the Ethiopian Languages Qemant Geez Weyto Quaregna and Gafat

The progressive extinction of the indigenous Ethiopian languages of Qemant,Geez, Gafat, Quaregna and Weyto is discussed. The focus will be on the language of Geez. The extinction of the other four minor languages will reinforce and prove that the cause of the extinction of Geez many centuries ago is still valid today due to the emergence and dominance of Amharic. The main anthropological concepts of culture, language, ethnicity (ethnic group) and environment (adaptation) of these five major extinct languages is discussed.

The QUAREGNA language may have been similar to Qemant or archaic Amharic. There is little information about this language and the people of that area now identify themselves as Amharas. Some still identify themselves as Quara or Quarey due to oral history that identifies them as such.

GEEZ is one of Ethiopia’s oldest languages is Geez and the Ethiopians believe that this language was given to them by God. The speakers of Geez were known as the Agazians and their origin is obscured in the mist of time. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to pinpoint the causes of the decline and extinction of Geez but the hypothesis can be conjectured by analyzing the development of the culture, language, environment, and adaptation of the Agazian people during the changes that took place around 700 A.D. Cultural, ethnic, and environmental aspects of Amharic (South of Geez area) contributed to why this language slowly headed into extinction. The Ethiopians believe that their multi-ethnic society existed during the era of the Pharaohs about 4000 years ago. During this time period, the Ethiopian Agazian (Axumite) tribe spoke their unique Semitic (more correctly Ethiopic) language called Geez. In addition, the Agazians built monuments and governed distant colonies of Egypt, Sudan, and Yemen. The Agazian Empire extended into certain parts of southern Ethiopia too and as a result, much of southern Ethiopia’s population, language, and culture were influenced. According to historians, the Agazian Empire (Axumite Empire) was a world power comparable to the ancient empires of Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Persia. The Agazian tribe eventually evolved into three separate major branches of ethnic groups. The following is the list of the three major Ethiopian Semitic languages in the order of being most closely related to Geez: Tigre, Tigringa, and Am(h)arigna (Amarigna) among others. Amharic, the most Southern of these three languages expanded further south while Tigre expanded to the West and Tigrigna remained at the locality where the Geez people originally lived where it was confined by the Red Sea and the lowlands of the Western region of Axum.

GAFAT is another language that slowly headed into extinction due to the emergence and dominance of Amharic. During the reign of Emperor Fasilida in the 17th century, Gafat was the common language spoken among the Ethiopians who lived in the Blue Nile area of the province of Begemder which is now present day province of Gonder. Unlike Geez, the Gafat language is classified as being Afro-Asiatic Semitic while some classify it as Cushitic. The cultural, ethnic, and environmental interaction of the Gafat language with Amharic culture and dominance contributed to why this language slowly headed into extinction. First, the Gafat people were known for being the bravest of soldiers; for this reason, the Amharic speaking Amhara Emperors recruited them as soldiers. Thus, their career as soldiers for the Emperor of Ethiopia (and allies of the Amhara people (Amhara Culture), eroded the Gafat language and culture. Second, since the Gafat people were surrounded by the Amhara people from the North and East, the Gafat people had no choice but to adapt to the culture and environment of the Amhara people. These are very significant anthropological facts because culture is a result between the environment and human beings; therefore, culture is knowledge. Also, culture is a way of survival if human beings are able to adjust to their environment and with each other.

QEMANT is the third major ancient Ethiopian language that slowly headed into extinction due to the emergence and dominance of Amharic. The Qemant are an ancient Cushitic people living in Northwestern Ethiopia near Lake Tana. This language is a branch of another "almost" extinct Ethiopian language called Agaw. Nevertheless, the Amharic language and culture of the Amhara people slowly forced the Qemant people to abandon their language along with their pagan Hebraic religion. The scripts they use is Ethiopic but earlier travellers have reported that there was a script used by the Qemant. In addition there are remamnts of their language within the Amharic type they use in their daily conversations today.

Finally, WEYTO is the fourth major ancient Ethiopian language that slowly headed into extinction due to the emergence and dominance of Amharic. The Weyto lived near Lake Tana where their language was spoken. The hippopotamus dwelt in this region and these animals were used for food and their skins were used as shields for the Amharas (some classify these Weyto as Hippopotamus Culture people). The Weyto tribe practiced their traditional pagan religion and they were not Christians like the Amhara ethnic group. For this reason, the Weyto were not allowed to enter the homes of the Christian Amhara peoples because they believed that their presence would bring them bad luck. The Amharas never learned or adapted to the language of the Weyto. In a sense, the Weyto language was kept a secret from the Amhara peoples so that they could use it as a secret language. Thus, the language of the Weyto people died out and today they are an indistinguishable ethnic group from the Amhara people. This is true because the Weyto adapted to the culture and language of the Amhara. The classification of this language is uncertain; however, it is probably classified as being Eastern Sudanic or Cushitic. In sum, since the Weyto people were surrounded by Amharic speakers, they had no choice but to conform to the major language of Amharic and their Cushitic culture was absorbed by the Amhara culture.

In conclusion, the indigenous dominant language of Amarigna and its Ethiopic scripts expanded from the central province of Amhara. Ethiopia is a multiethnic society with over eighty languages and with over two hundred dialects. Thus, Ethiopia is an excellent country to study the evolution of new languages and the extinction of old ones. In addition, the Ethiopians viewed Amharic as being a language of nobility; for this reason, many Ethiopian tribes desired to speak it, aside for use as trading communication. In other words, the Ethiopians highly esteemed and glorified Amharic and considered it as the language of Kings (Lisane Negus). It is important to know that language is described as being a very complex system of symbols. Language in some sense defines culture; however, language does not define cultural identity. For this reason, it is not possible to know a language without knowing the culture.

References; Emperor Tewodros Ethiopian Library, Washington DC

September 08, 2008

Where is the Letter P in the Ethiopic Languages ?

There are no words in the Ethiopic Languages that contain the letter P. Only loan words such as Police, Post Office, Pyramid, Peter and Paul etc exists in the Amharic Tigrigna, Tigre, Oromo, Afar, Somali and other Ethiopian languages. An Amharic dictionary may have no more than 20 loan words in the P category (example Kesate Birhan Amharic Dictionary).
The nearest alphabet used by rural Ethiopians unfamiliar with the "P" loan words is by pronouncing the "P" as a "B". Therefore these loan words are pronounced as: Bolice, Bost or Bosta, Byramid, Beter and Baul. This phenomenon also exists in Arabic speakers of the Middle East
The alphabet or Abugida or HaHuHi letter "P" is found in the Ethiopian Alphabetical Chart (See below) in the Ethiopic form and its origin is uncertain.

The Ethiopian Alphabets

There are two versions of the Letter "P" (click twice on Chart); A regular "P" and a tight "P.". Post is written out with the regular "P" and Peter is written using the tight "P."

The details, origins, philosophy, description and interpretation of the Ethiopic Alphabets (also called Geez, Giiz, Abugida and HaHuHi), refer to the excellent work of Dr. Ayele Bekerie of Cornell University. The author also describes how it is related to the ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics and other cultures. For even further details visit the sight at

September 02, 2008

Dula(s): The Staff and Stick Culture of Ethiopia

Ethiopians have to use Dulas due to the terrain of the country. Here many use the dula during the celebration of Timket also known as Epiphany.


In Ethiopia, one can very well ask the question which came first, the stick or the stone as the first tool. The archeo-paleo-anthropological stone-age era could have well been preceded by the stick era. It is obvious that sticks have turned to dust somewhere in the mist of time as compared to stone tools; or has it? Take a closer look into the present day Ethiopian culture and one will aptly find the remnants of the stick culture still in use today. Thus, the stick may have come first many millennia ago in Ethiopia. The stick commonly called “dula” in Ethiopia may have been the first tool after all. Even today, the dula is still widely used to ward off wild animals and ensure that humans can travel from point A to point B without being eaten alive by the clawed and fanged beasts of the fields, forests, and savannas. The dula is also used as a deterrent against strangers, highway robbers and enemies.
The lonely dula, however, did not remain for long as a plain regular stick. Like the staff of Moses, it has branched and flowered into many types of instruments and weapons. Hundreds of stick varieties evolved from the simple and lonely dula. It would be very difficult to include all the various types of sticks, staff, rods, and batons practiced by the eighty ethnic groups of Ethiopia. The majority of the dulas described here are from the main tribes of the Oromo, Amhara, Tigre and other tribes.
The Ethiopian stick is usually made from hardwood or bamboo. It is fired or flamed to further harden it and oiled to preserve the integrity of the wood to prevent cracking. Dulas are also made from cedar wood (tid), acacia (grar), wild olive (weira), sycamore (warka), vines (hareg) and bamboo (shembeko Kerkeha and Reed).
The most common term for sticks is dula. The dula can be a walking stick, a guard's zebegna stick, or any type of long well oiled and flamed stick about four to five feet in length. The term dula will therefore be used as a generic word for stick in describing the dula stick culture of Ethiopia.

Dula(s): The Staffs and Sticks of Ethiopia

Dula is an Amharic word for a stick or staff. It can refer to any stick but in most cases it is the humble walking stick that is used throughout Ethiopia. On rare occasions, it can be the name of a boy born on the high windswept mountains or fierce deserts of Ethiopia. Structurally, the dula consists of a head, neck, body (or spine) and the foot. The head is the part that is handled by the hands. The foot of the dula is the part that touches the ground. The neck of the dula lies immediate to the rear of the head. The main body between the foot and the neck can be described as the body or spine of the dula. These famous Dulas (Sticks) of Ethiopia can been categorized into 5 groups;

1. Walking stick dulas
2. Fighting stick dulas
3. Honorific stick dulas
4. Utility stick dulas
5. Game stick dulas

Walking Stick Dulas
These sticks are typically and commonly called Dula (plural Dulas). It is a generic term and can be applied to many types of sticks used for many types of purpose. However, in Ethiopia, a dula is mostly understood to be a walking stick or a stick used for protection.

Dula: The typical Ethiopian walking stick or stick used for protection from adversaries and wild animals. The dula is used as a generic term to describe any stick that has been oiled, fired and hardened.

Komet: This dula is typically used by youths. The head is round and knobbed and is specifically designed to knock off an adversary or incapacitate wild animals. It is usually made from hardwood.

Kentero: A short dula specifically designed to strike down and incapacitate a person to the ground. It is made from hardwood with a large round head, somewhat knobbed. It is short enough in length to use as a walking stick or to swing and strike at an adversary with an effective and deadly result.

Kolmama: A dula that is manufactured from sorghum stem. The body of the dula is twisted around several times for a long-lasting tensile strength. The head part of the stick is knobby.

Belota: A short dula, a walking stick, similar to the Kentero.

Kerkeha: A dula or walking stick made from a bamboo (or reed) called kerkeha. It sometimes goes by the name kerkaha signifying the material it is made of, i.e., kerkeha bamboo.

Kezera: This dula is similar to the Kerkeha but is made from wood. It has a seven-shaped head. It is somewhat similar to the Beter and Merkuz and sometimes even goes by these names.

Deguasa: A very large Beter walking stick dula.

Qumit: walking stick (?).

Meqa Dula: A dula stick made from Meqa, a type of reed.

Shenboqo Dula: A dula stick made from shenboqo, a small Ethiopian bamboo.

Zeng: Zeng is a type of Beter used by those who walk long distances in the wilderness and wilds of Ethiopia. It is a formidable weapon and as such held very dearly and closely by the owner.

Beter: A slender wood somewhat long, well-oiled and treated. It is often used as a corporal punishment tool on misbehaving children.

Utility Stick Dulas
Utility sticks are sticks used for some other chores other than walking sticks, dulas

This is a torch made from brushes and sticks. It can be embedded with other combustible material to ensure a long term effect. It is used on holidays such as Buhay (Harvest Festival) and Meskel (Festival of the Cross or Finding of the True Cross). This type of torch is usually hand-held.

Thin pieces of low-quality sticks used for various purposes. As a single stick with small branchesof no more than a yard in length, it can be used as a temporary dula. But the name signifies as thin, so it cannot be used in the classical sense as a dula (see Walking Stick). One usually swings it around aimlessly as he or she walks. It can also be used for making a cheibo or to start a fire and keep the fire going on or as a temporary outdoor broom. “Thin as a tsheraro” is a common expression.

A Demera is a bonfire of special significance. Piles of sticks are burned during New Year, called Enqutatash, or during the celebration of Meskel, the finding of the True Cross. Personal Demera maybe be a foot high and National Demera used at Meskel Square in Addis Abeba can be twenty feet high and twenty feet across.

This long dula is used inside a tent to prop up and support it. If the pole that is used is positioned in a horizontal manner, it is referred to as Agdem Terada.

A long stick with 3 pronged or forked end used in the field during harvest time.

A long wood used to till the earth. It is smaller than the Geso and used extensively in agriculture.

A long stick used to upturn the earth.

The Yelo are sticks derived from the Atena (A small tree) of below good grade value. The Yelo is of a girth that is too large to use as a dula and thus often used for walls of the “mud and wattle” type of houses (Gojo Bet or Tukul). Technically, the girth or diameter is about 4 inches or as the Amharic description goes “Behulet Ej Yemitchebet”.

A strong pole about 4 feet long used to jam a door from the inside to prevent access into a house. This is a typical device used in huts in the countryside or small villages where padlock keys may not be available or suitable to use.

This is a similar device as a Tewaga but can be used as a jamming device anywhere applicable.

A dula stick used by shepherds. It is effective in protecting the herds as well as the shepherd (in Amharic Eregna) from wild animals and cattle hustlers.

Attara Dula:
A dula stick used by shepherds. This may be similar to the Kulkuye mentioned above or a variation of the dula itself.

A long pole used as an oar for boats (Jelba) or a papyrus reed boat called a Tankwa. The Tankwa is similar in appearance and build to the reed boats used by the ancient Egyptians and the Indians of Lake Titicaca in South America. Basically, the user or oarsman firmly plants the Terkeza pole into the water and pushes the boat forward.

An oar used for a boat (Jelba) or a papyrus reed boat (Tankwa).

A very long flute-like musical instrument made from the kerkeha bamboo trunk. It is strapped to the chest or held by both hands in a vertical position and played by blowing into a hole on the side of the bamboo. Each Embilta has its own unique sound and therefore several instruments are played in unison to achieve a somber music with unusual resonance.
The Dula can have many applications other than a walking stick.

Zabia is the wooden handle of a spear. The term also applies to the handle of an ax, pick, shovel and other tools. Another name for Zabia is Somia.

The wooden handle of a spear is called Somia. Another name for Somia is Zabia.

A stretcher made from two large dulas to carry a sick person or a casualty of war to a hospital or treatment center or home.

Meberberia: A long wood with a 3-pronged head. It is also called a Mensh and is used for agricultural purposes such as willowing.

A very large dula, the girth of which is about 4 inches in diameter used to pound grain in a muketcha.

Mesbekia: A wooden stick used for churning milk.

Fighting Stick Dulas

Fighting sticks are generally used in sports and for protection from wild animals and enemies. Fighting sticks can range in size anywhere from 3 feet to nine feet in length. It is a stick that is held very closely, treated with respect and strengthened by initially firing it and oiling it to prevent cracking and splintering. Some dulas, like the Donga and the Eba are specifically made for fighting and/or competition sport while others, like the Kentero, are actually a walking stick.

This is a very strong fighting stick that is used by the Surma and Mursi of Southwestern Ethiopia. It exceeds in length greater than the height of the owner and a ten foot weapon is not unusual. Hundreds gather during sports events and fighting competition continues until a winner is declared as the hero of the tribe. The prevention of serious injuries is accomplished by wrapping the head, arms, legs and torso several times with cotton shawls. In a ferocious fight, one can hardly make out the figure of a person as the blur of the stick and shawl envelops the fighter into a ghostly figure!

The game of Iba is played by the Oromo people of Metcha in the province of Showa, Ethiopia. The formidable weapon used is essentially a large Dula of no particular description. Two opposing groups vie for the best spot to invade each other’s territory. Commonly, a stream divides the opposing resident’s fighters. Swinging their large Dulas, the fighters prepare to invade each other’s territory by stomping the earth and chanting war songs. Eventually, one group courageously invades, and a fierce battle begins until dusk. The clubbing stops when one territory surrenders in humiliation and defeat.
Emperor Haile Selassie, upon hearing about the Iba game, condemned the bloody sport and had it banned. Nevertheless, this sport continues to this day.

Honorific Stick Dulas

These dulas are typically used for ceremonial purposes. They are handled with great honor and respect and are sometimes elaborately designed. The honorific dulas are often repetitive of a people, nation and chiefs.

The Sendek is a dula known commonly as a flag pole. It is used to fly the National Tri-color of Ethiopia’s Green Gold and Red Flag. In the ancient times, before the flag was adapted as the National Flag, bunches of leaves and Adey Abeba flowers adored the end of the pole to signify the new birth of the new year called Awdamet or other festivities. This ceremony is still carried on today during the Meskel and New Year festivities. The Sendek with the flag was commonly raised at the tent of the emperor so that the exact location of the Ethiopian leaders was visible to all who encamped. This imperial mobile city of tent camps was actually the Capital City of the Nation.

This is a prayer stick used by the elderly and the church clergy. The Mequamia is used in the standing position during the long church ceremonies. The head of the staff has a T-shaped brass or iron handle that can be used as a chin rest. In church festivities, such as in “dances” at Epiphany called Timket in Amharic, the Mequamia is held and waved according to certain rules and rhythms of the church chants of praise. Thus the Mequamia is somewhat akin to a conductor’s baton in an orchestra. In addition it is used respectfully as a walking stick by the very elderly when traveling to and from church.

This was an honorific spear used in the old days. It was respectfully carried by a special spear and shield carrier of a feudal chieftain. This type of spear was unusually large and long with ornamented wood and a sharp tipped spear head.

Betre Mengist:
This is a golden baton that is held by the right hand when the emperors were crowned King of Kings. It represented authority and ability of the emperors to rule Ethiopia.

Miniature Dulla Sticks:

This sticks are too small to be considered as dulas but the technique to develop them and craft them are nevertheless the same!

Meka Berei (Reed Pen)
As the name implies, this is a pen (Berei) made from Meka, a type of bamboo reed that is stronger than Shenboko. This type of miniature dulla stick has been used for many centuries by Ethiopian scribes.

Ters Mefakia (Chewing Stick or tooth brush)

Ethiopian tooth brush or Ters Mefakia (

Ters Mefakia literally means teeth scrapper in Amharic. Chewing sticks are made from the roots, twigs and stems of plants that contain high levels of fibers. The Zana tooth brush is used more often but other types of twigs such as acacia is used in Ethiopia. Sometimes these tooth brushes are a two or three foot long twigs with leaves still attached such that the person can also use it as a miniature dula stick to ward of flies or even animals such as dogs. Continued use of this twig, particularly by shepherds, shortens the Ters Mefakia to a 6 inch or less stub that can be pocketed after use. Alternatively a village merchant manufactures these tooth sticks using the best fibrous twigs and makes a living. His customers are mainly city folks who have less access to the tree.
A smart Ethiopian student in Germany (1960's) used to sell Ters Mefakia and was able to finish school and return back to his homeland. He peddled the tooth brushes as anti-cancer sticks which many Germans enthusiastically purchased. This story was obtained from Ato Kebede of the Ethiopian Embassy. It is a fact though that the Ters Mefakia twigs usually have an antimicrobial effect as well as scrapping plaques off, thus leaving a clean and fresh mouth at all times.

Ye Astay Entshet or Sebeka Entshet(flint Wood)
When Ethiopians did not have access to matches to light a fire, they had their own system of using twigs or wood to create fire by friction. Remote areas may still use this stone age method.

Enzert (Spindle)

Ethiopian Enzert Spindle

This miniature wood is made from the Kerkeha wood, a type of bamboo. It is used to spin cotton and is commonly used by women in the household as an extra source of income.

Sports Game Dulla Sticks:

These dulla sticks are typically made for sports and fun games. However, they can be weaponized when the need arises as protective weapons.

Kolafa (Hockey Stick)

Gena Game and Kolafa dula

This dula is used for playing the game of Gena. Gena, which means Christmas, is played during Christmas Day on January the seventh. The main feature of the stick is the bent front end or head of the club used to hit the Gena ball.

The Kolafa (Negarit Drum Stick)
Kolafa is also the name applied for the drum stick of the huge Negarit drum of Ethiopia. The booming sound that is produced is used to summon the people for mobilization in times of war.

Seged Dula:(Lance)
A long stick or lance used in the game called Gittay. The size may vary from 5 to 7 feet in length but no specific length is recommended as long as it can be tossed great distances. However the wood is as strong as olive wood and it is made from a type of hard wood found in the lowlands. The game of Gittay is to aim and throw the Seged dula and strike a cactus tree from several feet away.

Eba Dula:(War Club)
Eba is a war game that is played by the Metta Oromos of Ethiopia near Ambo, about 50 miles from Addis Abeba. Groups of youths from either side of a river face each other, chanting war songs, sizing each other and swinging the dula in a strike pose, threateningly. This intimidation is followed by a charge, actual and bluffs, until one opposing group overwhelms the other and declares victory. (Check Eba as Fighting Stick).

Shkerkerit: (Hoop Wheel)
A hoop made from a flexible twig or a strong vine. The hoop is rolled and controlled with a hooked wire attached to the end of a wooden stick.

Yeferas Guks or Feres Guks: (Polo)
A horse game akin to Polo of the West. Only Ethiopian men play yeferas guks. Two opposing groups ride on horseback and throw bamboo or wooden lances at each other. It is often held during the afternoon of Timqat. Young warriors in capes and head-dresses made from lions' manes battle one another by throwing the bamboo lances. They protect themselves with shields or just glance back and avoid the incoming lance. Centuries ago, survival in this type of game depended on the rider's skill, because there was no armor for protection and the javelins used were sharp and deadly.

July 21, 2008

Ethiopian Hair Styles

Ethiopian Hairstyles from former Provinces of Ethiopia. There are many variations of these styles from other tribes. The names of some of these hair styles are described below.



Mursi People Hairstyle

Sadula Hairstyle of Tigre and Amhara

Mertu Hairstyle of the Oromo People

Afar People Sheruba Hairstyle

Afar Sheruba

Tshefrer (Afro Goferay with a twist) and dreadlock combination

Afro of Afar People

Sheruba of unmarried Afar

Many types of hair styles exists in Ethiopia. Basically, braids (sheruba in Amharic), Afros (Goferay in Amharic) and dreadlocks of monks and pilgrims are common. In major towns however, the wonderful styles are not seen as common as in the rural areas. Most Ethiopians may proudly hang up photos of traditional hair styles in their homes but usually avoid wearing it themselves probably because they may be depicted as backwards. Many years ago The Ethiopian Post Office printed a set of stamps that depicted various tribes wearing unique and stylistic hair styles from the provinces of Arussi, Bale, Begemedir (Gonder), Eritrea, Shoa and Kaffa (double click for larger image). Some of these hair styles were actually used by the ancient Egyptians and Pharoahs and people of the Nile Basins. In fact there are many traditions and cultures used in Ethiopia that are presently absent in other parts of the Nile valley such as Head Rests, Cistrums, Ear wax cleaners and reed Rain Coats are still used in Ethiopia. Interestingly, the Ice Man found in the Alps of Italy used a similar Reed Rain Coat though he used it as a sleeping mat as do the Ethiopians! The hair styles shown here are from the stamps printed many years ago by the Ethiopian Post Office

Men usually have a hair style in the Afro fashion. However, they are known to also braid their hair. A well known examples of braids in men is that of Emperor Tewodros and Yohannes. This style is common among the Amhara of Ethiopia depicted on the left.

Hair styles also exists for the young. Mischievous toddlers receive a Mohawk type of hair cut. The Amharic name for this style is "Kuntcho". The traditional story behind this style is that the angels will pull the kids out of trouble by holding onto the tuft of hair of the kids. An example is the kid on the left. Young girls receive a hair cut that includes a shaved top surrounded by a halo of an Afro style. The girl on the left probably has this type of hair style but whether the top is shaved is not visible

Traditional hair style of Emperess Taitu, wife of Emperor Menilik.

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Hairstyles of Ethiopia

Hairstyles for Children

: This hairstyle is used mostly in toddlers and the very young. It consists of a tuft of hair on top of a shaved head. In Ethiopian tradition, the angels save the child from mischief and trouble by holding them by the tuft of the Quntcho hair. This Quntcho style however is disappearing in large towns but it is still common in rural Ethiopia where it is a sign of tradition and not backwardness.

Zerantch: The hair of the Quntcho that grows on the head of a child is called Zerantch.

Qaray: A narrow strip of hair is allowed to grow from the mid-forehead to the back of the neck. The rest of the head is shaved. This style of hair is known as a Mohawk in the United States of America. However, within Ethiopia, it has been practiced as a tradition for many centuries in young boys. A well known Hollywood actor with a famous Qaray is the African American actor known as Mr. T. However, Mr. T also has an extra pair sticking out of his temples! It should be emphasized that Qaray is a hairstyle for children not for the sexually mature and married individual. In the United States, the Mohawk in African Americans is sometimes called Black Mohawk or Fro Hawk. Fro stands for Afro. This style is used in both sexes.

Sheruba: Sheruba is braid whether it is braided as a cornrow or as a free-hanging braid.

Sadula: Teenager maidens shave their hair on the top of the head and leave the outlying fringes unshaven. The shaven hair is allowed to grow only after the women have matured and married. The first growth of this shaven hair after marriage is called Endermamit or Fesesay The hair that has not been shaved, that is, the outlying fringe, is either braided or combed into an Afro. The Sadula is practiced mostly by the Amharas and Tigreans and some other tribes of Ethiopia.

Gamay: The Gamay is similar to a Sadula hairstyle used by girls.

Zur Gamay: This hairstyle is another name for Gamay Sheruba worn by young unmarried girls. It is also similar to the hairstyle known as Sadula.

Gamay Sheruba: This hairstyle is a Sadula hairstyle using braids. Unmarried girls shave the top part of the head and braid the remaining hair surrounding the bald spot.

Endermamit: When a young virgin girl with a Sadula hairstyle has married, the one year growth of new hair from the previously shaved area is called Endermamit. It is customary to comb this new growth with great respect.

Fesesay: This term is identical with Endermamit. When a young virgin girl with a Sadula hairstyle has married, the one year growth of hair that she combs and takes care of is called Fesesay.

Hairstyles for Women


Sheruba: Hair that is braided into a cornrow or as a free-hanging braid.

Gadeiray: This is a type of braided hairstyle by Amhara people.

Gofeiray: Any type of hairstyle that involves the excessive growth of woolly hair. In the West it is known as an Afro. This hairstyle is also used by women.

Gufta: Gufta is a hairstyle commonly practiced by the Oromo and Gurage people in Ethiopia. Basically, the hair is combed into a fluffy Goferay (Afro). It is then neatly covered with a shash and tied at the rear.

Eshem: This hairstyle is a thick large braid worn by women mostly but also by men in the older days. It is actually a large corn row beginning from the forehead and ending at the back of the neck. Tradition does not dictate as to the number of corn-row braids but Eshem is convenient for those who cannot stand the long hours of fine cornrow braiding. Gungun is another type of Eshem.

Eshem Dereb: This name implies a Double Eshem. This is a type of Eshem that involves the creation of one large Eshem over the top of another.

Gungun: This is a type of Eshem braid. It is a hurriedly prepared hairstyle to suit those who do not have time for an elaborate time-consuming cornrow braidng of the hair.

Mertu: This hairstyle is traditional amongst the Ethiopian Oromo people. The hair is braided in a rope-like fashion (twisted around) and ends in a tuft of hair. This is not done in the fashion of a cornrow. In most cases the hair and scalp is conditioned with ghee (an organic conditioner commonly practiced by Ethiopians) giving the hairstyle a glossy appearance. Mertu is also practiced by other ethnic groups such as the Gurage where it is also weaved like a rope. The hair is allowed to hang down freely.

Sadula: Teenagers, virgins and unmarried maidens shave off the hair on top of the head and leave the outlying fringes unshaven. The hair is allowed to grow only after the women have married. The hair that has not been shaved, that is, the outlying fringe, is either braided or combed into an Afro. The Sadula is practiced mostly by the Amharas and Tigreans of Ethiopia.
Endermamit: When a young virgin girl with a Sadula hairstyle has married, the one year growth of new hair from the previously shaved area is called Endermamit. It is customary to comb this new growth with great respect.

Fesesay: This term is identical with Endermamit. When a young virgin girl with a Sadula hairstyle has married, the one year growth of hair that she combs and takes care of is called Fesesay.

Hamar Bumi and Karo (Southwestern Ethiopians) Women Hairstyle: Hamar Bumi and Karo Ethiopian women who are unmarried have their hair rubbed with fat into small balls then cover them with ochre. These women change their hairstyle after marriage by changing the balls into long twisted strands rubbed in ochre. A fancy decorative ornament usually is included in the hairdo.

Afar Women Hairstyle: Afar (Danakil, Dankali) women that are unmarried wear their hair as hanging ringlets. After marriage, these women cover their hair with Shash or mushal.

Gerdaba Shash: A type of shash that covers the hair and used mostly by by Oromo women. The hair is usually combed as an Afro first then covered with the shash (Shash in Amharic).

Qelbay Shash: This is similar to the Gerdaba Shash but is a term in Amharic.

Kebs: this is a head and hair cover used by women and priests

Gutena: A type of Goferay, an Afro hairstyle.

Hairstyles for Men

Goferay: Any type of hairstyle that involves the excessive growth of woolly hair. In the West it is known as an Afro. This hairstyle is also used by women.

Hamar Bumi and Karo Hairstyle (Southwestern Ethiopians): Hamar Bumi and Karo men wear clay hair buns representing killing of an enemy or a dangerous animal. The hairdo lasts up to one year. Above the forehead, a small holder is made to hold ostrich feathers. Hamar men also braid their hair into cornrow.

Afar Hairstyle: Afar (Danakil, Dankali) men frizzle their hair into a fuzzy mop (so-called Fuzzy Wuzzy of the British). When ringlets are desired, ghee is used to soften the hair into the desired fashion.

Tchefrer (Fuzzy Wuzzy): The Tchefrer (or Fuzzy Wuzzy is a term created by the British and is only mentioned here as a historical note) is well known by patriots, Monks and Spiritualists (Qalitcha). The Ethiopians in the borderlands near the Red Sea were well known to be described as the Fuzzy Wuzzy people. The Beni Amir, Besharin, Amrar, Bilen, Afar, Saho, Hadendowa as well as others exhibit an unusual exaggerated Afro. Some of these tribes still wear this hairstyle. The Fuzzy Wuzzies gave these people a fierce appearance to their enemies. It should be mentioned here that these people were not conquered since the Roman times. When the British first encountered them, they aptly called them Fuzzy Wuzzies not knowing their culture language or origin. Previous to that the Romans and Greeks considered them as apes who resided in the ground and classified them as Troglodytes. The nearest Ethiopian word for Fuzzy Wuzzy is Tchefrer which means unkept frizzled hair worn by Patriots, Monks and Spiritualists.

Nazrawi: This is a Christian monk who wears his hair in a Goferey (Afro style combined with dreadlock) and wraps a long chain several times around his shoulders and waist. This monk or pilgrim also carries a long metal rod that is topped with the crucifix (cross). Nazrawi in itself is not a hairstyle but is mentioned here as an information about Nazrawi monk hairstyle.

Keloita; this is a skullcap worn by men of the Islamic faith.

Buqedaday; Elephants in Ethiopia were plentiful in the past centuries. An elephant killer (Zehon Gedaye) proudly showed their status by wearing the Buqedaday shash (head band) as a sign of valor. The narrow sash, usually green yellow and red (The Ethiopian National Symbol) over a white background, covers part of the forehead and was tied at the back of the head near the nape. An extra piece of the sash usually dangled down the back from the knot.

March 04, 2008

Comment of Obama's East African Robe

Recently Senator Barack Obama was shown wearing an East African or Somali robe. The West has completely misrepresented this African culture of East Africa. It has nothing to do or with the Muslim or Islam clothing. In fact Muslim clothing is more directed to woman. The male population in the Muslim countries or African countries can be wearing anything from the typical Western business suit to a loin cloths of some tropical country.

Bishari or Beni Amer Ethiopians in the province of Eritrea. The design has nothing to do with religion or Islam. (Golden Lion An Expedition to Abyssinia, by Hartlmaier)

An Afar from Ethiopia wearing the fashion that Obama was wearing in Kenya.(Courtesy:A Cure for Serpents)

Ethiopia Afar Tribemen wearing the Shemma. The heat of the lowlands compels them to wear the robe in such fashion but in the Highlands of Ethiopia, the fashion used is different. Due to the cool climate, it is wrapped around the shoulders by Christians, Muslims and Animists men and women.(Ethiopian Tourist Organization)

The African fashion in the Sudan where Islamic Arab culture is eroding the African Zaghawa culture. The lone person on the right is wearing the Traditional African garb (from:The Life of my Choice)

A Beja Tribe that inhabits from Ethiopia to Egypt. (Courtesy:The History of the Beja)

The so-called Somali clothing that Obama is featured is also practiced by a number of tribes in the horn of Africa. The Afars, also known as Danakils or Adals wear a similar clothing whether they are Muslims or animists or Christians. In addition to the Somal, the Saho and Tigre people also wear a similar fashion. In Ethiopia, the material used is usually made from local fabric called Netela or Shemma. A number of other tribes also wear this style across Ethiopia and even up to Egypt. It is not surprising that the Ancient Egyptians also wore such type of fashion.
Another misinterpretation by the uninformed is the name Barack as a Muslim word. In fact it has nothing to do with adherence to a certain faith. In Arabic it means Blessing. In Swahili it also means Blessing and is derived from Arabic language (Arabic is not a religion but a language). Within Ethiopia the equivalent of Barack is Bereket in Amharic or Berekhet in Tigre and Tigrigna. The word also is used by many of the other tribes in Ethiopia. The meaning is still Blessing.

February 25, 2008

American Meskel Flower (Yadey Abeba)

In the month of September in Highland Ethiopia, after the Monsoon rains, rural areas of the country blooms with the yellow daisy known as Yadey Abeba and Meskel Abeba in Amharic. Simultaneosly in The Eastern part of the United States, when summer month comes to an end, the countryside also turns yellow with a similar wild flower identified as Tickseed Sunflower (scientific name Bidens aristosa or Bidens polylepis of the Asteraceae, Aster family). The flowers, seeds and plant leaf and growth pattern of both Ethiopian and American plants are identical. The question here is: Was it possible that the flower was initially introduced from Ethiopia by a botanist at the turn of the century? Below are some photographs of the flowers taken in Catharpin, Virginia about 30 miles south of Washington DC. The flower also has the distinctive smell of Yadey Abeba, the long resistent seeds and the carpet growth characteristics in the open fields. In Ethiopia the flowers are used in the festival known as Enkutatash and Meskel but the same flower is considered as weed in the Eastern United States, especially Virginia and North Carolina. (Photos by B.W.Gabriel September 2007 Virgina USA)
Clusters of the American Yadey Abeba known locally as Tickseed Sunflower on Sudley Road (Route 234) near Catharpin, Virginia.

A closeup of the Meskel flower in full bloom and a bud that is ready to bloom.

The characteristic yellow color of the American Meskel flower is identical to the Yadey Abeba of Ethiopia.

Fields are a welcome site for the daisies to flourish year after year. The seeds are very resilient resulting in condensed growth of the flowers.
Tickseed Sunflower of America and the Yadey Abeba of Ethiopia are identical yellow daisies that stop growing due to dry season.
The height and stem of the flowers from both countries are identical. Good fertile soil produces bigger flowers and taller plants.

numerous types of butterflies bees and insects feed on the nectar of this bright flower.