Dorze

Home of Ethiopia’s Weavers

Take a beautiful drive up the mountains and Dorze welcomes visitors to see and experience its’ traditional way of life. Dorze people occupy the Eastern edge of the Gamo Highlands, above Lake Abaya, about 2,600m above sea level.

High in the mountains, Dorze people have developed a technique of splitting and weaving bamboo to create homes. Their tall beehive shaped dwellings are the most distinctive traditional structures to be seen anywhere in Africa. The remarkable Dorze home can stand two stories tall and last up to 80 years. Inside the main hut, you will find a fire place, a seating area and bedrooms. Smaller huts can include guest houses, a workshop, a kitchen and even a cattle shed. Termites eat at these structures from the bottom which, over time, causes the home to shrink. As the home gets smaller, it is put to different uses eventually ending up as a store room.

Dorze people’s talent in weaving has led to their name being synonymous with the best woven cloth in Ethiopia. Roles are clearly divided, women are responsibly for spinning cotton and men weave the colourful hats and shammas which are popular throughout the country.

The villages sit in the middle of false banana forests and while the fruit of the false banana tree is inedible, the Dorze use the roots to make several varied food dishes, all distinctively flavoured, including fermented bread that is buried and aged underground. They also weave rope and even make soap from the plant.

The weekly markets are colourful events, where people sell pottery, cloth, spices, vegetables, fruit, tobacco, cattle and all the essentials for life. It a time to socialise with others and enjoy the local honey drink, Tej.

Near Dorze, the mountains provide great opportunities for trekking. A 30m-tall waterfall is an hour’s walk away, with others further afield. Overnight camping trips and pack horses are available.