Occupying the north-western parts of Ethiopia and speaking the native Amharic language are the Amhara people. Keep reading as we explore some interesting facts about the Amhara tribe.
Amhara People & Tribe
The Amhara people are culturally and politically one of the most dominant ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The Amhara, Oromo, and Tigre constitute more than a third of the Ethiopian tribes and population. The Amhara tribe’s tradition traces the roots of the people back to Menelik I who was the son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba.
Every member of the Amhara tribe performs specific duties assigned to them. Men work in the fields, women work in the kitchen while children are responsible for feeding the animals. In addition to looking after livestock, the children also attend classes in public schools.
The Amhara people are very creative and innovative, using dried cow dung or firewood to cook their food, such that nothing is wasted. They use the oxen to plow the fields, plant and harvest using their bare hands and use animal’s feet to thrash the harvest. Injera is their stable food and is made from tiny indigenous grains commonly known as teff.
Meanwhile, deforestation and lack of clean drinking water are the major problems facing the Amhara people. This is one of the major contributors of famine in their land. One of the major famines that hit the Amhara people occurred back in 1974 and 1984.
The Amharas have a unique dressing code where men wear blankets and white shawls wrapped over the shoulders whereas the women wear white robes and white dresses also wrapped around their shoulders. The two things defining their mode of dressing are their culture and the cold weather they live in.
Amharas build their homesteads on hilltops which protects them against floods. The sons build houses in their fathers’ compounds and can marry from the age of 17 while girls get married at a tender age of 14 years. Marriages are negotiated by both families and a civil ceremony is held to seal the contract. The presence or absence of a priest is also determined by both families.
The Amhara people allow divorce after a series of negotiations. They also practise a temporary marriage that is effected by word of mouth in front of witnesses. In a temporal marriage, the woman is paid the housekeepers wages and is not eligible for any inheritance. However, children born in the [temporal] marriage are recognized and are entitled to property inheritance. Amhara priests are however, not included in these as they are not allowed to divorce or remarry.
Traditionally, Amhara people breastfeed their children for two years, with the kids receiving little discipline until they attain the age of five to seven. Boys take the role of herding cows and sheep while girls help their mothers in watching over babies and fetching wood for cooking.
Amhara Language and Religion
The Amhara people speak the Amharic language which is also a Semitic language of the Ethiopians and is also the second most spoken Semitic languages in the world after Arabic. The Amharic language is the official Language of the country and Ethiopia has always been ruled by the Tigray people and the Amhara.
The majority of Amhara people are Christians that practice ancient roots of Aksum. Christianity is believed to have first come to Amhara land in the 1500s when an emperor converted to Christianity. This seems to be responsible for the hold Christianity has on the land today. Ten percent of Amhara people are Evangelical Christians.
The Amhara boys are baptized on the fortieth day after their birth while girls are baptized on the eightieth day after they are born. This marks their entrance into the church as Amhara people believe that the church represents salvation while their daily life is defined by their faith. They also have very strong belief in fasting. Faithful Christians fast up to 250 days per year.
However, Amhara people base most of their Christian teachings on tradition, and western ideas are met with a lot of skepticism, especially innovations that are based on religion. Their fear of foreign ideas has limited the Amhara people from outside missionaries of other Christian denominations. This has also limited their access to the bible, with the few available ones translated into Amharic.
Moreover, most of the Amhara people have no access to a church because many live in remote mountains with poor or no means of transportation. Most of them focus on the teachings of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC). The EOC is an ancient church that was formed in the beginning of the 4th century AD. The Ethiopian Orthodox church was hugely influenced by the Syrian Christianity.
Amhara has beautiful women and they are also very hardworking. This is evident in the fact that most of these women have their own businesses, jobs, or things they do and as a result, do not completely depend on their husbands.
As earlier pointed out, most of the women get married before the age of 17, making the culture one of the most popular when it comes to child marriage. One of the reasons why they are married off even at the age of 14 is to preserve the virginity of the young girls for their husbands.