On the fringes of the national parks, the lower Omo Valley is home to a fascinating mixture of small, contrasting tribal groups. Lifestyles are as varied as the people themselves. The Mursi and Surma lead live of harsh simplicity, uncluttered by the pressures and anxieties of the modern world outside. They are renowned for the strange custom followed by their women who, on reaching maturity, have their lower lips slit and circular clay discs inserted. The larger the disc inserted. The larger the disc the more desirable the wearer! The Mursi woman still follow the custom of carving deep crescent- shaped incisors in their arms as a symbol of heroic achievements in tribal conflicts. The Surma and karo utilize various clays and vegetable dyes to trace amazing patterns on one other’s faces, chests arms and legs.
Multiple earrings are a popular male decoration, as are elaborate hair styles shaped and sculptured with razors, smoothed flat at the front of the head with a skull- cap of dried red mud, and often topped off with an ostrich feather. Women are even more extravagantly coiffured with their hair in ochre –plastered ringlets or amongst the Hamer, wearing headbands decorated with large oval plates of burnished tin.
Generally naked from the waist up, the women of this region wear short knee length leather skirts the hems of which are decorated and weighed down with many jingling iron nails beaten into rings. Goat skins are plentiful and some women wear leather skirt, often embroidered with colorful beadwork or cut into long strip.