Ethiopia The Tribes and the Timkat celebrations

An extraordinary Photo Tour and expedition to South Ethiopia and Lalibela. In Lalibela (optional extension) we are there for the the January Timkat Celebrations, the Ethiopian Epiphany, an exceptional religious festivity in the hands of a seasoned and internationally awarded travel photographer: Harry Fisch, with an outstanding work and experience in Ethiopia. You will photograph the little known vanishing tribes of Southern Ethiopia, and bear witness to the festivities at the sacred world heritage site of Lalibela.

Please visit my Post ETHIOPIA Photo Tour to find out more. We will embark on an incredible journey.
Visit the PHOTO GALLERIES (upper left of the page) to see some characters that we will meet once there and have a look at personal series ETHIOPIA photo tours and other ETHIOPIA series .

Watch the Video with Images of the Tour


  • • Small group of only 7 maximum participants, guided in areas which have until now hardly been photographed, and group accompaniment by an internationally acclaimed photographer with great knowledge of the region. (We can, exceptionally add by up to two, the maximum number of participants per workshop)
  • •Photo sesión with the Hammer tribe with their interesting hairstyles, as wild for the men as for the women, the women’s body decorations and tattoos and the scar art on the men.
  • •Witness one of the most incredible religious festival in Lalibela; the Timkat (optional extension).
  • •Capture the biblical atmosphere of the Jerusalem of Africa, Lalibela, a Unesco World Heritage site and get close to the people and they daily life (optional extension).
  • •Enjoy photo sessións with the Konsos, Banna, and Dasanech tribes, and get a myriad of great and unique photo opportunities, both spontaneous and structured.
  • •In the Mursi territory, one of the most fascinating points of this trip, have a photo session in one of their hamlets. They are famous for the women’s style of wearing acryllic discs in their lower lips, as well as their air of dignity and ferociousness.
  • •Photograph the remote tribes of the Southern river valley.

This Photo Expedition takes you through the heart and soul of Southern Ethiopia, searching for the best and most incredible photographic opportunities. You will get the chance to get in some spontaneous photo sessions, as well as some which are structured in advance, and of course time to create a narrative of the day to day lives of these tribes. You will experience breathtaking scenarios in the national parks and see the indescribable; Africa at its purest.

Why the Lalibela optional extension?

We will have an extraordinary change of scene between the tribal valley area and the highland of Lalibela; it is a journey to the heart of ancient Christian tradition in orthodox Ethiopia. It is a leap back in time where we will see rites which originated in the 5th century, when at the Council of Chalecdon the Orthodox contingent separated itself from the auspices of Rome.

A Unesco World Heritage site, Lalibela is the place to be for the Easter celebrations that take place around and inside the churches that are carved into the ground . It is one of the most impressive sites in the world and, most of all, a place that shines during Easter.

Lalibela is the Jerusalem of Africa. A place that remains as it was in the 11th century and where the celebrations are being observed as they where in the 12th century. Not a touristy place. Our daily photographic activities are far from a touristy approach.

We will be inside the churches, carved in stone, witnessing the most incredible moments in a breathtaking subdued light.

This workshop will take you through extraordinary areas to meet and photograph incredible subjects. The focus for us is the quality of our shots, so we will be getting up very early in the morning so we have enough time to set up before first light, to ensure the perfect time and angle for what we want to capture. There will be a few long drives, as some of the tribes live in more remote areas, but we pride ourselves on comfort and we’ll roll out in our air conditioned 4x4s. Sadly, there are no five star hotels in certain parts of the country, but we’ve made sure to secure the very best accommodations for every stop on our trip. Though in one location electricity is not available 24/7, generators are available for certain hours so cameras and equipment will always have a chance to charge.

Two weeks after our arrival in the states, we are just now coming down from what was probably one of the best trips of our lives. As professionals in the photography business, we went into this experience open-minded and ready to explore. Harry’s energy and commitment not only matched ours, but exceeded it. You would think that a photographer who has been to a country numerous times would somehow let the cumulative effect of all his knowledge make him a complacent and a “dial it in” kind of leader. Harry was the very opposite. His energy and enthusiasm was infectious. His knowledge and compassion combined with his ability to adapt made our trip incredible. His thirst for humanity and ability to highlight what we would normally walk past, was phenomenal and for two people who are no strangers to the profession of street shooting, we learned and we grew immensely. Harry takes your hand when you want him to, and he will step to the side when you are ready to soar. He is an ally, a confidant and a true teacher.

Ami And Chris Riess (www.riesshill.com Santa Monica, California)







We will arrive and go directly to the hotel. Tonight, we’ll have a meet and greet with the Lead Photographer, and orient ourselves in our itinerary for the rest of our trip.



At first light we’ll take the flight to Arba Minch heading  south to the Great Rift Valley, a huge furrow in the earth’s crust that stretches across the majority of Ethiopia. It was created by volcanic and river activity both, about 35 million years ago, which formed a fertile corridor with many lovely lakes we will pass as we go through it. Further South we’ll find Lake Awasa, Abaya, and Chamo, which each have their own unique perspective and vistas.

The area itself is also a photo opportunity; though it has very little car traffic, it is a main thoroughfare for people; merchants with donkey pulled carts, ox drivers, horse riders, and on foot pilgrims heading to whatever their destinations. There are a few thatched roof hut villages along the road which are typically Ethiopian, decorated with lively, African style clay work. The people go about their day to day lives and we’ll have great spontaneous photographic opportunities to capture them at work in the fields, making and selling handicrafts, and heading to their local markets. We’ll arrive at our destination inside the Great Rift Valley, the cradle of man, in time to catch the sunset as the long rays of late evening stretch across the vast African expanse, bathing everything red-orange, then purple, until the sun slips below the horizon and lets the stars come out and shine.



We go on to Turmi, the small town is the heart of the Omo Valley territory of the Hamer, learning about their customs, their way of life and their ceremonies, which, if we are lucky, could involve something special such as a bull jumping ceremony.


The Hamer are the largest ethnic group in southern Ethiopia, occupying the eastern part of the Omo River. They are a mix of different ethnic populations coming from the north, east and west of their current territory of residence. Their most distinctive features are their hairstyles, their women’s decorations and body markings, and their men’s decorative body scarring. Female hairstyles are made with ocher, red clay, and animal fat, giving them their characteristic consistency. Male hairstyles incorporate clay caps, bird feathers, and they usually indicate a certain social status: hunters, warriors.



We head for the village of Jorcho, on the shores of the Omo River, where the Karo live: After finishing our photo session we return to Turmi.

We timed our visit to arrive on the big market day. The people of all the Hamar villages in the area walk for hours to trade animals, goods that they have made, food they have grown, firewood and even souvenirs for tourists. Down two side alleys are the mills where Hamar women take purchased grains to be ground into flour. The place buzzed with activity.

For today’s photo shoot with the Karo, we head for the village of Korcho, located at a strategic bend of the Omo River. This village is inhabited by about 1,000 people, who are the only sedentary population in the area. After finishing, we return to Turmi and visit a Hamer village again.


The Karo are seasonal farmers, herders and honey collectors. They practice fishing, something that was taboo until recently and is only done by young single men. Their villages are a bit more sophisticated, with huts of good craftsmanship, and barns. Physical beauty is of utmost importance among the Karo. Men, more conceited, decorate their bodies with white and ocher paint made from plants. Women wear their hair in beads, but also, they normally have a nail in their lower lip and are decked out with necklaces and bracelets. Like the Hamer, the youths practice bull jumping, an inevitable rite of passage, stigmatizing those who fail.



We leave for Key Afer and then to Jinka




Early in the morning we’ll head to Mago National Park. This was created to protect the population of elephants and giraffes, which has been, sadly, almost destroyed by poaching. Fortunately for us, the populations are growing back, and we stand a good chance of catching some of these animals in the wild with our cameras.

Next we’ll head on to photograph the Mursi in one of their villages. They are famous, as one normally sees the women, with discs in their lower lips, but a surprising quiet elegance, on the covers of National Geographic. In the Mursi village we’ll have structured photo sessions and plenty of time to sit with the inhabitants, speak to them, and capture them on film.

Apparently coming from eastern Sudan, where they are supposed to have been part of the Durma people, they speak a Nilotic language and form a group of about 4,000 persons.


They have initiation rites where men must fight each other at the Donga (not to death) with long sticks, painting their bodies especially for the occasion. Teenage girls have an incision made in their ear lobes and lower lip, where increasingly bigger clay plates are placed. Their function is actually aesthetic, and only high-caste women can wear them. All men and women shave their heads and so they love razors. Men also practice skin scarring, drawing intricate patterns and stories across their bodies that they will wear forever.




We head for Konso a world heritage site, and rightly so. A visit to Konso takes us back in time to the Neolithic era, to scenes and ways of life that have almost been forgotten by modern man. Konso is full of stone walled terraces and dirt packed roads trodden by tribes people who are friendly and willing to stop for a chat or a photo.



Early in the morning we will leave for the nearby mountains of Chencha (3,000 m). On the road, the vegetation will change over slowly from bamboo like stalks to the ‘false banana’ trees of the jungle. We will visit the Dorze who are famed for their incredible weaving work, but most for their polyphonic music, which utilizes a far different chord and percussion structure than Western music does. We’ll spend time having a photo session with these lively and musical people, shooting amongst the tall thatched huts and their denizens.

After lunch we will continue towards Lake Chamo, where we will board a small ship for a special Photo Expedition; colonies of pelicans, crocodiles, hippos, etc. wade in and out of the Omo river, and the coming and going of the ambatchs (a kind of extremely light vessel, similar to those depicted in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs) will give us a fantastic off the cuff photo opportunities. Towards the evening, we will return to the hotel.



We will have the hotel until noon. When it’s time for our flight, we’ll go to the airport and head for Addis Ababa. Upon arrival, we’ll get a reception at the airport and transfer to the hotel; the rest of the afternoon will be free time for last minute visits and purchases. Late in the evening transfer to the airport for international flights. 


Extension Lalibela (18 Jan 2020)




The Churches of Lalibela and the Epiphany celebration


Lalibela sits high in the Lansa mountains, and is considered one of the holiest sites in Africa. The population is estimated as around 8,000-10,000, and at least 1,000 of the members are priests. Known as the Black Jerusalem, it is undoubtedly the most impressive of the eight Ethiopian cities classified as a World Heritage Sites. It was founded in the late twelfth century, with the intention of creating a new imperial capital and a new Holy Land in a single city; it seemed a good idea as Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem were becoming a dangerous adventure.


The sacred site of Lalibela boasts eleven churches carved into the ground, and stand inside a hollowed out spot as one single stone unit. The chiseled pillars and doorways rise up from the mountain itself and are impressive in their make, considering the tools their builders had to work with at the time of their construction.

The most important religious festival is the Feast of the Epiphany, or, in their language, Timket. This holy day commemorates the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River. It is a journey to the heart of ancient Christian tradition in orthodox Ethiopia. It is a leap back in time where we will see rites which originated in the 5th century, when at the Council of Chalecdon the Orthodox contingent separated itself from the auspices of Rome.


In Ethiopia, religión lives with an intensity almost unknown in the Occident. The level of participation that the entire population gives will surprise us. Everything is slow and calm; the ceremonias, the chanting, the hours of mass. Everything occurs at a pace that is reminiscent of the Medieval era.





Very early in the morning, we will go to the airport to take a flight to Lalibela, a place known as “the Eighth Wonder of the World", which holds an example of Orthodox Christianity to its zenith.

Once we arrive, we’ll be received and head straight to our hotel.

In the afternoon, we’ll have a chance visit to the Nakutelab cave church, about 7 km from the city. As the sun sets we’ll have plenty of opportunities to photograph the church from the inside and out, catching the way the light filters in and around the monolithic structure, giving it a definitely biblical atmosphere.

Then we will return to our hotel in Lalibela.



This day is dedicated to visit the monolithic churches, which are literally carved into the rock and split into two blocks separated by the Yordanos (Jordan) River.

The first group symbolizes earthly Jerusalem and the second group the heavenly one. Separated from both groups is Bet Giorgis, symbolizing Noah’s Ark, and built in honor of St. George, Ethiopia’s patron saint. Beautiful murals with clear Byzantine influence cover the walls, and illuminated manuscripts, prayer sticks and many antiques can be admired inside all churches. They still are places of worship, fundamentally on religious calendar holidays, and so you can also meet and do portrait work with the faithful that come to the churches to pray, if you’re lucky.



Early in the morning we will attending the ceremonias of Timket, which includes the blessing of the water – a crucial point of this celebration. Rest assured we will have a structured photo session during the unique festival, and plenty of time to observe and document the many steps and interesting facets of the Epiphany celebration.

In the evening, we will visit the second group of churches. We will spend time setting up then photorgraphing them from every which way, inside, and outside, as the natural light wanes and the lighted candles are all that remains for us to see and shoot by.



We will have the hotel until noon. When it’s time for our flight, we’ll go to the airport and head for Addis Ababa. Upon arrival, we’ll get a reception at the airport and transfer to the hotel; the rest of the afternoon will be free time for last minute visits and purchases. As soon as the outbound flight arrives, we’ll go back to the airport and journey on to our next destinations.


Prices per person
5-7 Participants 6930 US$

Single Room Main Itinerary 720 US$
Single Room Optional Extension 430 US$

Extension Lalibela 2900 US$


Prices are per person, based on double occupancy and for 7 travelers (see the surcharge for less if aplicable). A limited quantity of single-occupancy rooms are available for an additional charge.


The maximum number of participants are listed under "Maximum Group" in the Price section of each individual workshop. However, we reserve the right to add by up to two, the maximum number of participants per workshop at any time.




  • - Tutoring by photographer/expert Harry Fisch
  • - Local Flight Addis - Lalibela - Addis on the Optional Extension
  • - Reception at Addis Ababa airport on arrival and exit
  • - Boat trip on Lake Chamo
  • - Transportation by 4x4 vehicles air conditioned.
  • - Accommodation in 1st. class hotel in Addis Abeba, tourist and local hotels and lodges in double rooms with private bathroom elsewhere
  • - All meals except 3 lunches
  • - All visits
  • - Expert guide
  • - * For the extension to Lalibela: accommodation in tourist hotel in double room with bathroom, local flights and transfers included and English-speaking local guide.




  • - International Flights 
  • - Local Flight Addis Abeba - Arba Minch - Addis Abeba (aprox 400 $)
  • - Optional activities and visits
  • - Tipping in the Tribes
  • - Tipping to Guide and Driver
  • - Personal extras, such as drinks, laundry, telephone, etc.
  • - Visas.
  • - Air taxes
  • - Airport taxes
  • - Any other item not mentioned as included