Turmi – Hammer Market and US dollar as an unidentified currency

It looks that Turmi is a touristy place as there were plenty of campings. We had chosen Evangadi Lodge and Campsite– the place offers a variety of accommodation and facilities (hotel rooms, tents for rent and restaurant), but to get there we needed to cross a dry river bed and avoid getting stuck in the sand. Since we arrived and asked for the price, the guy at the reception told us that actually our friends just arrived…We were confused, who was he talking about, but after a while we noticed familiar 4×4 Toyota – Terri’s and Johnny’s car. Totally accidentally we picked up the same camping.  Campsite was rather expensive in comparison to what we were paying before for accommodation in Ethiopia (200 Birrs for 2 people and the car/ night) , but it was really nice and we decided to stay as also we already had a great company.

Turmi is a tiny little place surrounded by plenty of Hammer villages. On Monday Hammer people come to Turmi and spend time on its famous market. Market is definitely place where everybody should come, even for a while. Women with their shimmering coppery-coloured tresses sell vegetables, spices, butter milk and traditional items (head stools, calabashes, metal arm bracelets and goat skin decorated with beads and cowrie shells…). To us it looked like the market was divided into two parts. First part was surrounded by a fence and prepared rather for tourists – We had never asked about prices there but I guess they were rather “touristy”. Second part of the market rather looked like the place where Hammer people were changing goods with each other or with people from different tribes.

This part of market looked more authentic. We also managed to buy for a 70 Birrs amazing goat skin with colourful beads and shells. This market is also a place where local people can interact with tourists. We also noticed that Hammar people try to get money from tourists in many ways, for instance a 10 years old girl came to us and asked wheter we wanted to take photo of her..when we said: “yes”, she added that it would cost us 1 Birr…Kids observe adults and they learn very quickly following their examples.


When we were coming back from the market, we heard two girls already prepared for bull jumping, singing and dancing…They noticed us and did little show to us. We wanted to give them few Birrs, but we didn’t have any left. I remembered that I had 1 US dollar in my rucksack and we decided to give them that note, but surprisingly…they didn’t know what was that? What currency! We were seriously really surprised as we though that everyone in the world is able to recognise American dollars. It proved that we were mistaken. Hammer girls followed us to the campsite, where the manager of the place exchanged that US dollar for them! I probably will never forget how happy they were, when they got 15 Birrs in exchange for one, unknown to them banknote…

• They are agropastoralistists, who cultivate: sorghum,vegetable, millet, tobacco and cotton
• Wild honey is important part for their diet
• They are known for their hairstyles (they put on their hair a mixture of ochre, water and binding resin) They twist strands many times to create a coppery-coloured tresses known as goscha, which is a sign of health and welfare
• If men have killed recently dangerous animal, they are permitted to clay hair buns (sometimes they are also supported by ostrich feathers ). Those buns lasts from 3 to 6 months
• Every piece of body decoration or jewellery has a symbolic importance.The women wear iron coils around their arms and bead necklaces, plus decorate their skin with cowrie shells. The point of iron torques around the necks of engaged or married women indicate the prestige of their husband.Unmarried girls wear a metal plate in their hair. The iron bracelets and armlets show the wealth and social standing of the young woman’s family (After a marriage she must remove all of the jewellery – this is a gift to her new family). In terms of men, for instance, number of earnings denote the amount of wives they have.
• Hammers are also masters of body decoration: body painting and scarification– it allows them not only express a great artistry, but also serves important social and cosmetic purposes. For most tribes scarification is a distinction for brave warriors (For woman, the raised texture of the skin is very desirable and it holds sensual value for men; men cannot scarify themselves, till they have killed at least one enemy)


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