Benishangul Gumuz is one of the nine regional states in Ethiopia, located in the most western section of the country bordering Sudan. The region is the least visited and very much vague both to the traveler and also ground handling agents of the country.
The name Benishangul is derived from two words Bela and shangul. Bela, is a local Nilotic word of the Berta tribes to mean rainmaking stone. Shangul is an Arabic word to support the claim of the Berta that they have an Arabic root.
Rain making stone is a big stone that the Berta people gathered together for a fabulous ceremony of white dog scarification. The ceremony is held anytime when there is no rain or when the rain is excess of the demand.
The ceremony of white Dog killing takes place in a few Kilometer distance from the present capital, Assosa in a bushy site under a huge stele looking rock. In the vicinity are more rocks clearly identified by the local Berta people as meaningful to their relations with gods. The rocks are also given different names where 3 of them are important and known by the names of; “Belbembesh” the one with paintings on it, “Belasata” being the tallest of all and the last one as “Belaasharef”.
The present capital city is called Assosa which formerly was called Atsotso until the year 1886.
The region is blessed with five unique and different tribal people. All of them have their own languages, cultural assets and religious practices. It is quite interesting for travelers to be available in these villages as these people are less visited even by people from their neighboring regions. Visit to these villages is always authentic, natural and life time experience.
The most dominant tribe in Benishangul Gumuz regional state is the Berta. They account about 25.9 % of the total population (720,000 total population). They speak Nilo-Saharan language family and practice the religion of Islam being fluent in Arabic language, for which they claim to be descendants of the Arabs. The Bertas are hugely popular for having a unique dance practiced during some special occasions such as wedding & festivals called Zumbara. They have a traditional bamboo made flute looking music instrument huge in size & making dazzling sound.
The Gumuz are second largest next to Berta, about 21.1%.settled from mandura –aremja (Blue Nile River on the way to Assosa). They are characterized by being deep dark skin. They practice exchange marriage and inherited wives but no intermarriage with in the same clan. Some are Muslims but most of them are traditional believers. They have scarification as tribe mark (identification mark). The Gumuz Speak Nilo-Saharan language family. Women are more responsible to carry out all types of activities. The Gumuz women give birth in a forest and stay there for about 40 days.
The Shinasha are Light skin color. They speak Omotic language (the only tribe speak Omotic out of Omo valley). They practice no scarification and now a days allow inter marriage with the Agaws, an indigenous community that use to practice Judaism. The Shinasha claim to have blood relation with Jews
Mao and Komo are both Muslims. They take out two front teeth. Mao women and men wear clothes similar to Amhara. Komo wear under belly. (Upper body part is open).
Other points of attractions within this hidden region in Ethiopia are;
The Dej azmach Mohamed Banjaw palace.
Dej azmach Mohamed Banjaw is a high military official from Gumuz tribe born in 1907. He had about 40 wives including 1 Sudanese and 20 children. He is the one who welcomed Emperor Haile Selassie on the return after appeal to UN in England concerning what Italian did over Ethiopia.
He built a palace from 1941-1943.the palace is built by Sudanese architect in Gonderian architectural style by brick mixing .
Sheik Hojele museum, judicial court and tomb.
Sheik Hojele is from Berta tribe holding high political power during emperor Minilik’s 2nd and Haile Selassie time .he was administer of Benishangul Gumuz.
Founded by the Nigerian sheik named Alfeki umer in 1940. sheik Alfeki umer came to Ethiopia in the same year to spread Muslim religion. He lived only 6 months in the area. There is a tomb inside the mosque belongs to the founder.
1. Dahans baguna Sunday market: is a small market place where we come across the Agaw and Gumuz tribes.
2. Koshmando Thursday market: is a small market place where we come across the Mao, Komo and Oromo tribes.it is a market for goat, sheep cattle’s and chicken.
3. Ganzo Wednesday market: is a small market place where we come across Komo, Mao and Berta tribes.
4. Bambasi Saturday & Wednesday market is a small market place where we come across the Berta, Oromo and Wollo tribes so on.
More over one will come across wonderful scenery, many traditional gold mining spots, villages, while taking a tour of the Benishangul region.
The region is also the most fertile section of Ethiopia where blue-marble is found. More over major oil seed production is also happening in this part of the country. The region has also become important by hosting the grad millennium dam of Ethiopia that would alleviate the power shortage of the country and its neighbors such as Sudan and Djibouti.
Trip to the region is possible at all times of the year on all-weather roads and crossing green topography.
Now, there is a reason to come again to Ethiopia for a different experience of the Benishangul region and its riches.
Interested in visiting the Benishangul region ? Please check available tour packages