The Afar region, in Northern Ethiopia, is one of the hottest places inhabited by man. When I was there, temperatures exceeded 130 degrees F. My cameras were so hot I could hardly hold them. At night, dust storms swept over my tukul, covering me in a quarter inch of fine brown powder. In the morning I'd shake it off my mosquito net, body, and plastic bags full of my clothes and equipment, then walk out into the desert, wondering why the Afar people lived here.

Like the Dinka in Sudan, the Afar are nomadic pastoralists, who migrate with their portable houses (dabota) to wherever there might be enough rain to nourish them and their cattle. War, famine, and most recently tuberculosis may dent them, but it seems that nothing can break the fierce, proud Afar. The mixture of Islamic and tribal culture among the Afar is striking; the women cover their heads and sometimes their faces, but also think nothing of leaving their breasts exposed.

 

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