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The people of Ethiopia wear many different types of clothing. Highlanders use heavy cloth capes and wrap around blankets to combat the night chill. In the heart of the lowland plains, light cotton clothes are all that is required by men and women alike. The traditional cloth of Christian highland peasantry has traditionally been of white cotton cloth; men have worn long, Jodhpur like trousers, a tight – fitting shirt and a Shamma (loose wrap).

The Muslims of Harar, by contrast, wear very colorful dress, the men in shortish trousers and a colored wrap and the women in fine dresses of red, purple and black. The lowland Somali and Afar wear long, brightly colored cotton warps and the Oromo and Bale people are to be seen in the bead decorated leather garments. National dress is usually worm on festivals, when streets and meeting places are transformed into a sea of white, as finely woven cotton dresses, wraps decorated with colored woven borders, and suits are donned.
A distinctive style of dress is found among the Oromo horsemen of the central highlands, who on ceremonial days such as Meskel attire themselves in lions’, manes or baboon-skin headdresses, and carrying hippo-hide spears and shields ride down to the main city squares to participate in the parades.
The most obvious identification of the different groups is in the jewelry, their hairstyles & the embroidery of the dresses. Both Muslims and Christians wear jewelry in silver and gold, often with amber or glass beds incorporated. Heavy brass, copper and ivory bracelets and anklets are also worn.

The women of Amhara and Tigray wear dozens of plaits (Sheruba), tightly braided to the head and billowing out of the shoulders. The women of Harar part their hair in the middle and make a bun behind each ear. Arsi women have fringes and short, bobbed hair. Bale girls have the same, but cover it with a black head cloth, while young children often have their heads shaved.

Clothing of the Omo people is simple and effective a short wrap around toga, enhanced with iron rings and other craft jewelry. Hairstyles, however, more elaborate in the extreme shaped and fashioned with razor sharp knives and adorned with a skull – cap of red mud. Many of the men are further decorated with tribal cicatrice scars, which denote their standing in the community as young warrior or wise elders. The women walk bare breasted, wearing a simple short skirt of lather, the hems elaborately decorated with metal works.

Hamer, Dassanach, Nyangatom and Karo men form a ridge of plaited hair and clay to hold their feathered headwear in place. Hamer women wear a distinctive headdress of beaten tin plates. Body paintings using clay and locally available vegetable pigments on face, chest, arms, legs, etc are also common. The Mursi and Surma’s women are well known for the large clay or wooden discs-terra-cota that they wear inserted in silt in their ears and lower lips.

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