Afar Tribe: The Ethiopian Tribe Where Men Use Butter to Style Their Hair

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The men in the Afar tribe style and maintain their hair with cow fat and butter. The curls are obtained with sticks and the butter keeps it in shape for days and protected from the heat of the sun.

Afar Tribe: The Ethiopian Tribe Where Men Use Butter to Style Their Hair

The Afar also known as the Danakil, Adali and Odali, are primarily indigenous to Northeast Africa ethnic Cushitic people inhabiting the Horn of Africa. They primarily live in the Afar Region of Ethiopia and in northern Djibouti, as well as some parts of Eritrea and they speak the Afar language, which is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic family.

Afar Tribe: The Ethiopian Tribe Where Men Use Butter to Style Their Hair
Afar tribe man, Afambo, Ethiopia – Photo: Eric Lafforgue

The Afar people are believed to have existed since the 13th century. Very unique is their traditional hairstyles-the ‘dayta’ and ‘asdago’ hairstyle.

Their distinctive ‘asdago’ afro hairstyle is styled and maintained using butter, which lends their locks a slightly ashy appearance as well as protecting it from the sun and keeping it perfectly supple.

The Afar tribe aren’t the only Ethiopians to use butter to keep their hair in perfect condition. The Karrayyu, are an ancient nomadic group who live in the Awash Valley in the Fantalle district of Ethiopia, also create elaborate looks using butter, and unlike the Afar tribe, the buttery look isn’t reserved solely for the men: ‘Karrayyu girls also put butter on the hair.

The Ethiopian Tribe Where Men Use Butter to Style Their Hair

Socially, the Afar are organized into clan families led by elders and two main classes: the asaimara (‘reds’) who are the dominant class politically, and the adoimara (‘whites’) who are a working class and are found in the Mabla Mountains.

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In addition, the Afar are reputed for their martial prowess. Men traditionally sport the jile, a famous curved knife.

The Afar are mainly livestock holders. They mostly raise camels but also tend to goats, sheep, and cattle.



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Fascinating Cultures and history of peoples of African origin in both Africa and the African diaspora

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