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The Guraghe people (/ɡʊəˈrɑːɡ/)[5] are an Ethiopian Semitic-speaking ethnic group inhabiting Ethiopia.[2] The Gurage people traditionally inhabit a fertile, semi-mountainous region in southwest Ethiopia, about 125 kilometers southwest of Addis Ababa, bordering the Awash River in the north, the Gibe River (a tributary of the Omo River) to the southwest, and Lake Zway in the east. In addition, according to the 2007 Ethiopian national census the Gurage can also be found in large numbers in Addis Ababa, Oromia Region, Dire Dawa, Harari Region, Somali Region, Amhara Region, Gambela Region, Benishangul-Gumuz Region, and Tigray Region.[6]

Total population
about 3,000,000+[1]
Regions with significant populations
Christianity, Islam, traditional faith[2][3]
Related ethnic groups



The languages spoken by the Guraghe are collectively known as the Gurage languages. The variations among these languages are used to group the Guraghe people into three varied subgroups: Northern, Eastern and Western. There is no general agreement on how many languages or dialects there are, in particular within the West Gurage grouping. The linguistic status of Gurage, and the internal and external relations of the Gurage tongues, have given rise to a good deal of discussion and debate in the literature. The languages are often referred to collectively as " Guraginya " by other Ethiopians. The Gurage speak about 20 languages or Dialects:

Soddo(Kistane), Goggot, Masqan, Aklil, Muher, Chaha, Ezha, Inor, Gumer, Gyeto, Gura, Endegen, mekorikor, meger, Eaner, Mesmes, Zway, Wolane, Azernet-Berbere and Wuriro.

Such heavy fragmentation in such a small linguistic enclave is unique in the Semitic world. Guraghe languages is Related with Ge'ez. Guraghe is written left-to-right using a system that grew out of the Ge'ez script.


Gurage artist Mahmoud Ahmed

According to the historian Paul B. Henze, their origins are explained by traditions of a military expedition to the south during the last years of the Kingdom of Aksum, which left military colonies that eventually became isolated from both northern Ethiopia and each other.[7] However other historians have raised the issue of the complexity of Gurage Peoples if viewed as a singular group, for example Ulrich Braukhamper states that the Gurage East people may have been an extension of the ancient Harla people. Indeed, there is evidence that Harla architecture may have influenced old buildings (pre-16th c.) found near Harar (eastern Ethiopia), and the Gurage East group often cite kinship with Harari (Hararghe) peoples in the distant past. Braukhamper also states King Amda Seyon ordered Eritrean troops to be sent to mountainous regions in Gurage (named Gerege), which eventually became a permanent settlement. In addition to Amda Seyon's military settlement there, the permanence of Abyssinian presence in Gurage is documented during his descendants Zara Yacob and Dawit II's reigns. Braukhamper also notes that some Amhara troops and their families likely fled areas in modern-day Gondar and Gojjam into the Gurage region during the Ethiopian-Adal War of the 1530s, since Abyssinia was drastically outgunned by the Adal troops which received supplies and arms from the Ottoman Empire. Thus, historically, Gurage peoples may be a complex mixture of Abyssinian, Harla, and other groups which migrated and settled in that region for differing reasons.[8]

The majority of the inhabitants of the Gurage Zone were reported as Muslim, with 51.02% of the population reporting that belief, while 41.91% practiced Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, 5.79% were Protestants, and 1.12% Catholic.[9] According to the 1994 Ethiopian census, self-identifying Gurage comprise about 4.3% of Ethiopia's population, or about 3 million people.[10] The populations of Gurage people are not exactly known because approximately half of the population live outside of the Gurage zone and many believe that the Gurage people may have the third largest populations, next to the Oromo's and the Amhara's.

The Gurage live a sedentary life based on agriculture, involving a complex system of crop rotation and transplanting. Gurage people are known as hard workers and as a model of good work culture in the whole Ethiopia.Ensete is the main staple food, but other cash crops are grown, which include coffee and khat, both traditional stimulants. Animal husbandry is practiced, but mainly for milk supply and dung. Other foods consumed include green cabbage, cheese, butter, and roasted grains, with meat consumption being very limited (also used in rituals or ceremonies).

The Gurage, the writer Nega Mezlekia notes, "have earned a reputation as skilled traders".[11] One example of an enterprising Gurage is Tekke, who Nathaniel T. Kenney described as "an Ethiopian Horatio Alger, Jr.": "He began his career selling old bottles and tin cans; the Emperor [Haile Selassie] recently rewarded his achievement in creating his plantation by calling him to Addis Ababa and decorating him."[12]

Agriculture and enseteEdit

A Gurage teenager picking potatoes on one of the Ethiopian highlands

The principal crop of the Gurage is ensete (also enset, ensete edulis, äsät or "false banana plant"). This has a massive stem that grows underground and is involved in every aspect of Gurage life. It has a place in everyday interactions among community members as well as specific roles in rituals. For example: the ritual uses of Ensete include wrapping a corpse after death with the fronds and tying off the umbilical cord after birth with an ensete fiber; the practical uses include wrapping goods and fireproofing thatch.[13] Ensete is also exchanged as part of a variety of social interactions, and used as a recompense for services rendered.[14]

Ensete is totally involved in every aspect of the daily social and ritual life of the Gurage, who, with several others tribes in Southwest Ethiopia, form what has been termed the Ensete Culture Complex area... the life of the Gurage is enmeshed with various uses of ensete, not the least of which is nutritional.[13]

Ensete can be prepared in a variety of ways. A normal Gurage diet consists primarily of kocho, a thick bread made from ensete, and is supplemented by cabbage, cheese, butter and grains. Meat is not consumed on a regular basis, but usually eaten when an animal is sacrificed during a ritual or ceremonial event.[13] The Gurage pound the root of the Ensete to extract the edible substance, then place it in deep pits between the rows of ensete plants in the field. It ferments in the pit, which makes it more palatable. It can be stored for up to several years in this fashion, and the Gurage typically retain large surpluses of ensete as a protection against famine.[14] The resulting paste is used to make porridge and bread. The only way to eat ensete is to make into a paste.[citation needed]

In addition to ensete, a few cash crops are maintained (notably coffee and khat) and livestock is raised (mainly for milk and fertilizer). Some Gurage also plant teff and eat injera (which the Gurage also call injera).[15]

The Gurage raise zebu. These cattle are primarily kept for their butter, and a typical Gurage household has a large quantity of spiced butter aging in clay pots hung from the walls of their huts. Butter is believed to be medicinal, and the Gurage often take it internally or use it a lotion or poultice. A Gurage proverb states that "A sickness that has the upper hand over butter is destined for death." Different species of ensete are also eaten to alleviate illness.[16]

The Gurage regard overeating as coarse and vulgar, and regard it as poor etiquette to eat all of the ensete that a host passes around to guests. It is considered polite to leave at least some ensete bread even after a very small portion is passed around.[17]

It is typically expected that a Gurage will extend hospitality to their neighbors and kinfolk in dispensing ensete freely to them.


The Gurage in rural highland areas centre their lives on the cultivation of their staple crop Ensete. Kocho is made by shaping the ensete paste to a thick circle and wrapping it in a thin layer of ensete leaves. Its baked in a small pit with coals. Sometimes the paste is just cooked over a griddle. Kitfo a minced raw beef mixed with butter and spicy pepper is commonly attributed to the Gurage.

Notable GurageEdit

  • Samuel Tafesse, businessman in energy, realestate and hotel
  • Diguma hunde,a businessman in manufacturing
  • Ermyas Amelga, Ethiopian born American businessman
  • Getu Gelete, notable businessman in realestate and other businesses
  • Dembel Nega, a realestate mogul
  • Imam Baqsa one of the many leaders of Gurage resistance movement that began in 1875 against King Menelik's campaigns to Reconquer Gurage to his Shewa kingdom in his effort to expand his Shewan realm and Ethiopian empire. In 1878 or earlier, young Habte-Giorgis, presumed to be one of the Gurage resistance fighters of Imam Baqsa was captured in a battle by Menelik's soldiers and paraded in Ankobere. He later successfully integrated himself into the enemy army and became one of its zealots. A firm believer in conquest, he grew to be a Minister of War and Fitawrari (literally, a battle front leader) in Menelik's expanding kingdom.[18][19]
  • Abune Gebremenfes Kidus - a Saint. ¨Medere Kebed Monastery
  • Habte Giyorgis Dinagde (አባ መቻል & አባ መላ) Ethiopian Minister of War, during the reigns of Menelik II, Iyasu V, Zewditu and Haile Selassie.
  • Woizero Tenagnework Sahle Selassie Emperor Haile Selassie(Grand Mother)
  • Wolde Selassie Bereka Lt.General ( Army ) Chief of Staff of the Imperial Armed forces, Commander in Chief of Ground forces,
  • Deressie Dubale Lt.General ( Army ) Commander in Chief of Ground Forces Gurage & Amhara (Mixed).
  • Yilma Shibeshi Lt.General ( Police ) Commander of Imperial Police Forces.
  • Teshome Ergetu Lt.General ( Army ) Division Commander Gurage & Oromo (Mixed).
  • Wolde Tsadik Gebere Meskel Maj.General Deputy Commander Imperial Bodyguard.
  • Hailu Gebere Michael Maj.General ( Army, Holeta ) Commander of the Ground Forces Oromo & Gurage (mixed).
  • Abebe Wolde Mariam Maj.General ( Air Force ) Deputy Minister of Defense for logistics Gurage and Amhara from(Shewa)(mixed).
  • Kefelgen Yibza Maj.General ( Army, Holeta ) Commander of Central Command,Commander of ground forces.
  • Tilahun Argaw Maj.General ( Army, Holeta ) Core commander,Co mmander of Special Command, Assab Gurage & Amhara.
  • Kinfe Gebrel Dinku Maj.General ( Imp. Bodyguard, 3rd course ) Head of Mil.Operations Ministry of Defense.
  • Girma Neway Maj.General Commander of Ethiopian Police Forces after 1989 Aborted coup Amhara & Gurage (Mixed).
  • Assefa Hailemaraim Maj.General ( Army Police,Sendafa Commander ).
  • Tariku Ayne Brigadier General, the commander of Nadew command in northern Eritrea.
  • Tesfaye Habtemariam Brigadier General (Airborne commander)he was awarded the highest medal for heroism, Ye Hibretsebawit Ethiopia Woder Ye Lelew Jegna Medaliya.
  • Tadesse Gebrekidan Governor Of National Bank Of Ethiopia & Ministry Of Foreign Trade.
  • Yacob Hailemariam professor of business law at Norfolk State University; former Senior Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; and an elected member of the Ethiopian parliament who had been held as a "prisoner of conscience" in Ethiopia.
  • Berhanu Nega Professor He did his undergraduate degree in economics at the State University of New York at New Paltz[4] and got his PhD Having completed his PhD studies,During the 2005 Ethiopian elections, Berhanu debated Meles Zenawi.[6] Despite the post-election political impasse, CUD met on 20 August and elected Berhanu mayor of Addis Ababa, After he returned to U.S he joined the faculty of economics at Bucknell University, where he became a lecturer in economics for three years.
  • Dr Tadesse Biru Kersmo Lecturer Greenwich School of Management, Graduate School for Social Research.
  • Abba François Markos,[20] Roman Catholic priest, social worker, and educator[21]
  • Mahmoud Ahmed, singer[22]
  • Teddy Afro, Ethiopian Musician of Sodo Gurage background.
  • Abenet Agonafer - Ethiopian Musician & he is also skilled in guitar.
  • Aster Aweke , Ethiopian musician of Gurage background
  • Emahoy tisge mariam Gebru musician of Gurage background.
  • Professor Bahru Zewde, Emeritus Professor of History at Addis Ababa University, Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences and Vice President of the Association of African Historians.
  • Dejazmach Balcha Safo (አባ ነፍሶ) - military commander and lord protector of the crown, who served in both the First and Second Italo-Ethiopian Wars .
  • Ras Desta Damtew (አባ ቀማው) - was an Ethiopian noble, an army commander , and a son-in-law of Emperor Haile Selassie I.
  • Fitawrari Damtew Ketena - foreign minister and army commander in Adwa, killed in Action.
  • Dejazmach Abebe Damtew - army commander in Adwa, killed in Action.
  • Woizero Ijigayehu Adeyamo - mother of Emperor Menelik ll.
  • Sahle Sellassie Berhane Mariam - an Ethiopian author.
  • Dejazmach Bekele Weya - patriots against the Italians during the occupation.
  • Fitawrari Damitew Ketema- patriots against the Italians during the occupation.
  • lieutenant general Yilma Shibeshi - patriots against the Italians during the occupation.
  • Yekake Wurdot - The first women fight against women discrimination.
  • Tesfaye W/Mariam - Winner of the medal in Ethiopian airforce.
  • Emahoy Desta Datiye, between 1888-1928 patriots against the Italians during the occupation.
  • Ras ZSellassie Governor of Gurage province in 15th century.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Census 2007", first draft, Table 5.
  2. ^ a b G. W. E. Huntingford, "William A. Shack: The Gurage: a people of the ensete culture"
  3. ^ Lebel, Phillip. 1974. "Oral Traditional and Chronicles on Guragé Immigration".
  4. ^ Joireman, Sandra F. (1997). Institutional Change in the Horn of Africa: The Allocation of Property Rights and Implications for Development. Universal-Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 1581120001.
  5. ^ "Gurage". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  6. ^ Table 3.1 on 2007 Ethiopian Regional States Census Data Archived 2016-08-24 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Henze, Layers of Time (New York: Palgrave, 2000), p. 112.
  8. ^ Braukamper, Ulrich. Islamic History and Culture in South Ethiopia. LITverlag. p. 18. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  9. ^ Statistical Report (Report). CSA. November 2007. Archived from 2007 CSA the original Check |url= value (help) on 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  10. ^ Ethiopia: A Model Nation of Minorities (accessed 6 April 2006)
  11. ^ Nega Mezlekia, Notes from the Hyena's Belly (New York: Picador, 2000), p. 227.
  12. ^ Kenney, "Ethiopian Adventure", National Geographic, 127 (1965), p. 582.
  13. ^ a b c Shack, Dorothy. "Nutritional Processes and Personality Development among the Gurage of Ethiopia" in Food and Culture: A Reader. Ed. Carole Counihan and Penny van Esterik. (New York: Routledge, 1997). p117.
  14. ^ a b Shack, Dorothy. "Nutritional Processes and Personality Development among the Gurage of Ethiopia" in Food and Culture: A Reader. Ed. Carole Counihan and Penny van Esterik. (New York: Routledge, 1997). p121.
  15. ^ Girma A. Demeke and Ronny Meyer (14 June 2011). "Contact-induced language change in selected Ethiopian Semitic Languages" (PDF). Centre français des études éthiopiennes. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-11-06. Retrieved 6 November 2014.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  16. ^ Hunger, Anxiety, and Ritual: Deprivation and Spirit Possession Among the Gurage of Ethiopia Author(s): William A. Shack Source: Man, New Series, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Mar., 1971), pp. 30-43
  17. ^ Hunger, Anxiety, and Ritual: Deprivation and Spirit Possession Among the Gurage of Ethiopia Author(s): William A. ShackSource: Man, New Series, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Mar., 1971), pp. 30-43
  18. ^ Hailemariam, Gabreyesus (1991). The Guragué and Their Culture. New York: Vintage Press.
  19. ^ Shack, William A. (1966). The Guragué: A People of the Enset Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.
  20. ^ "Abba Francois Markos". Retrieved 2018-04-10.
  21. ^ Ato Assegid Negash. "François Markos". Dictionary of African Christian Biography. Archived from the original on 2010-01-25. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
  22. ^ Eyre, Banning. "Mahmoud Ahmed". National Geographic World Music. Afropop Worldwide. Archived from the original on 2008-06-10. Retrieved 2013-02-22.


  • Lebel, Phillip, 1974. "Oral Traditional and Chronicles on Guragé Immigration." in Journal of Ethiopian Studies by Institute of Ethiopian Studies. Vol. 12 (2): pp.  95-106.
  • G. W. E. Huntingford, 1966. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 29, pp 667–667 doi:10.1017/S0041977X00073857
  • Shack, William, 1966: The Guraghe. A People of the Ensete Culture, London – New York – Nairobi: Oxford University Press.
  • Shack, William,1997: "Hunger, Anxiety, and Ritual: Deprivation and Spirit Possession among the Gurage of Ethiopia" in Food and Culture: A Reader (pp. 125–137). Ed. Carole Counihan and Penny van Esterik. New York: Routledge.
  • Worku Nida 2005: "Guraghe ethno-historical survey". In: Siegbert Uhlig (ed.): Encyclopaedia Aethiopica. Vol. 2: D-Ha. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. pp. 929–935.

External linksEdit