Discover Oromia

Learn about the history, culture, and lifestyle of the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia

Borana Oromo Traditional Outfit by Moti PicturesVisit Oromia

The Oromo

The Oromo are Africa’s fifth largest ethnic group, and the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, inhabiting much of central, southern, and western Ethiopia, and the northern parts of Kenya.

Women of the Siinqee by Moti PicturesVisit Oromia

The region across the belly of Ethiopia

Oromia extends across Ethiopia's belly, from South Sudan in the west, to the Somali region in the east, as well as Kenya in the south.

Karrayyu Oromo Traditional Outfit by Moti PicturesVisit Oromia

The Gadaa system

The Oromo people's Gadaa system is one of the most elaborate systems of governance in the world. It is a millenia old democratic system where power is transferred from one Gadaa to the next, every 8 years and is still thriving among many Oromo communities such as the Karrayyu.

Oromo Women (2021) by Dagi PicturesVisit Oromia

Ethiopia's largest ethnic group

Having lived under the five Gadaas, the Oromo are a diverse people with rich cultures in coffee and cattle farming.

Scroll down to learn more about eleven of the different cultural groups in Oromia.

The Ilu Oromo peopleVisit Oromia

The Ilu Oromo people

The Ilu Oromo are a southwestern Oromo group whose powerful empire in the 19th century was led by the great Chali Shone.

His leadership joined the nine Ilu clans together at an area called Yayyo where ancient varieties of Arabica coffee still grow wild. 

Traditional Oromo Meal (2022) by Abel GashawVisit Oromia

The Arsi Oromo people

Part of the Sikko-Mando Gadaa federation, the Arsi Oromo inhabit the highlands east of the Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia. Steeped in ancient Oromo traditions, the Arsi are one of the largest Oromo groups and practice cereal farming as well as dairy production on their land. 

Traditional Shewa Oromo Outfit (2022) by Abinet TeshomeVisit Oromia

The Shewa Oromo people

Falling into both the Maccaa and Tulamaa confederacies of the Oromo Gadaa, the Shewa Oromo people inhabit the central highlands of Oromia as well as parts of the Great Rift Valley. The Shewa Oromo are skilled horsemen and farmers producing staples such as wheat and barley. 

The Making of Marmaree (2022) by Abinet TeshomeVisit Oromia

A popular snack in Oromia

Staple Oromo farming produce such as wheat is used to make Marmaree - a snack made from butter and wheat. 
It is popular across the southeastern highlands of Oromia. 

Traditional Gujii Oromo Outfit (2022) by Abinet TeshomeVisit Oromia

The Gujii Oromo People

The Gujii Oromo people live in parts of southern Oromia and are an ancient Oromo people whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and animal husbandry. They are strict adherents of the democratic Gadaa system and are  known for their high quality coffee. 

The Gujii Oromo traditional outfit is identified by its use of horizontal line patterns in black and white colors.

Traditional Karrayyu Oromo Outfit (2022) by Abinet TeshomeVisit Oromia

The Karrayyu Oromo people

The Karrayyu Oromo people are some of the strictest adherents of the Oromo Gadaa system and live according to the laws passed by their Gadaa council. The Karrayyu Oromo inhabit parts of the Great Rift Valley in Oromia, close to the revered Mount Fantalle. 

Jimma Oromo Traditional Outfit (2021) by Dagi PicturesVisit Oromia

The Jimma Oromo people

Inhabiting the Gibe valley and highlands in the southwest, the Jimma people lived in 5 kingdoms straddling the Gibe river named Gomma, Gumma, Gera, Jimma, and Limmu. Jimma was the only one that managed to survive into the 20th century with its royals ruling until the 1940s. 

The color green (Magariisa) is a color of choice in Jimma Oromo outfits, representing the lush green forests of indigenous trees including the coffee plant on which the economy of Jimma largely depends. 

Traditional Wollega Oromo Outfit (2022) by Abinet TeshomeVisit Oromia

Wollega Oromo Traditional Music

The Wollega Oromo people

The Wollega Oromo are a branch of the Maccaa (Mecha) Gadaa confederacy of the Oromo and live in the highlands of western Oromia. The Wollega Oromo are known for their coffee and traditional foods such as Anchote (root crop) and Ukkaamso (beef stir-fried with hot peppers).

Listen to the beautiful Geerarsa (ballad) songs that the whole of Oromia tunes into. 

Hararghe Oromo Women (2021) by Dagi PicturesVisit Oromia

The Hararghe people of eastern Oromia

Part of the Ituu and Humbannaa Gadaa federation, the Hararghe Oromo inhabit most of eastern Oromia, bordering the Somali. With a culture that is steeped in coffee, travel, trade, and Islamic traditions, the Hararghe Oromo are Oromia's connection to the east and beyond. 

Traditional Walloo Oromo Outfit (2022) by Abinet TeshomeVisit Oromia

The Walloo Oromo people

Inhabiting Oromia's northernmost frontier, the Walloo Oromo live as farmers and traders in the parts around the town of Kemise. The Walloo Oromo are famous for having ruled the Ethiopian empire for close to a century through the Yejju dynasty of the 18th and 19th centuries. 

The Walloo Oromo, much like the Hararghe Oromo, frequent the iconic yellow Callee bead necklaces as part of their outfits.

Gumee (2022) by Aron Simeneh and Berhanu beyeneVisit Oromia

Ornamentation among the Oromo

The Walloo Oromo and other Oromo groups feature intricate ornamentation as part of their cultural outfits, such as this Gumee - a bracelet that is worn by engaged women of Walloo. 

Traditional Borana Oromo Outfit (2022) by Abinet TeshomeVisit Oromia

The Borana Oromo people

Inhabiting large parts of southern Oromia, the Borana are a cultural powerhouse that  are famous for their Gadaa system that has stayed intact for the past 6 centuries. 
The colorful Borana Oromo traditional outfit is suited to the warm weather and assembled from a large piece of thin cotton cloth which can be fashioned into different styles.

Baalee Oromo Traditional Outfit by Moti PicturesVisit Oromia

The Bale Oromo people

The Bale Oromo people inhabit much of southeastern Oromia from the towering highlands of the Bale mountains to the lowlands in the east. They are closely related to the Arsi Oromo and are part of the Sikkoo-Mandoo Gadaa confederacy.

The Bale Oromo people inhabit an extremely diverse land surrounded by some of the highest peaks in this part of Africa as well as lowland valleys carved by some of Oromia's mightiest rivers. 

The Godaansa (2021-10) by Soko EntertainmentVisit Oromia

The Oromos of the lowlands and highlands

The Oromos to the south are primarily cattle farmers with millions of heads of cattle, making Ethiopia the country with the largest cattle population in Africa, while those in the western and eastern highlands are primarily cereal and coffee farmers. 

Arsi Oromo Women (2022) by Sehin TewabeVisit Oromia

The children of Borana and Barentu

The Oromos live in highlands, lowlands and plains and have adapted in their own beautiful cultures rooted in their common Oromummaa as expressed in the Gadaa system, Afaan Oromoo, and the ever present Oromo colors.

Today the Oromo primarily live in the Oromia region, which flies the black, red, and white flag, and proudly carry on the cultures and traditions of their forefathers.

Credits: Story

Brought to you by the Oromia Tourism Commission in partnership with Laurendeau & Associates.

Written by Outdoor Ethiopia

Photographed By Berhanu Beyene, Abinet Teshome, & Aron Simeneh

Additional photos provided by Bifle Promotion and Lati Pictures

Produced by Metasebia Yoseph for Laurendeau & Associates.

Music by Manuhe Negesse Gudina

Special Thanks To

Oromo Cultural Center for sharing their archive and artifacts.

Guzo Technology 

Eternal Media

Nega Wedajo Werete

Hickson Debele  

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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