It is said that most Ethiopians proudly display photos of traditional hairstyles in their homes but avoid wearing them themselves, presumably because they may be depicted as primitive.
The hairstyles are preserved because the Ethiopian Post Office issued a set of stamps depicting various tribes many years ago. This ranges from the provinces of Arussi, Bale, Begemedir (Gonder), Shoa, and Kaffa with distinctive and stylistic hairstyles.
Some of these hairstyles were worn by ancient Egyptians, Pharaohs, and Nile Basin dwellers. In fact, many traditions and cultures, such as headrests and sistrums, are still practised in Ethiopia that is no longer practised in other parts of the Nile Valley.
While women have different hairstyles for different ages, men mostly go for Afros. However, they could also braid their hair. Some of these traditional hairstyles are even done by women in Africa unknowingly.
Read on to find out the top 7 Ethiopian hair style ideas for women
These are made up of large raised cornrows braided over a rolled hairpiece, with small cornrows in between and/or on the sides. The style varies, but the frontal crown is only braided, leaving the back with a curly fro.
Habesha women frequently wear this style, especially for weddings. This is a well-known style in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
2. Shuruba Ethiopian Hair Style: (Traditional braids and cornrows)
This is a popular and ancient traditional hair-styling method. Cornrows (Shuruba) take about an hour to make; if the hair is thick, it may take two hours.
Cornrows are tightly braided around the head to create the Ethiopian Shuruba hairstyle.
It is true that, aside from being an image of personal elegance, the majority of contemporary Ethiopian hairstyles are not very fashionable. Though it is very popular and is mostly done for people over the age of 21.
This hairstyle is a thick, large braid worn mostly by women but also by men in the past. It’s actually a large cornrow that runs from the brow to the back of the neck. Tradition does not specify the number of cornrow braids, but Eshem is useful for those who cannot endure the long hours of fine cornrow braiding.
Eshem in the form of a gungun is another type of Eshem. It is done for those who don’t have time for an elaborate hairstyle.
Eshem Dereb (double Eshem) is also a type of Eshem in which one large Eshem is created on top of another.
This hairstyle is popular among the Ethiopian Oromo people. The hair is braided in a rope-like (twisted around) pattern and ends with a tuft of hair. This is not done in a cornrow fashion. In most cases, the hair and scalp are conditioned with ghee (an organic conditioner popular among Ethiopians), which gives the hairstyle a glossy appearance.
Mertu is also practised by other ethnic groups, such as the Gurage, and is woven like a rope. The hair is allowed to fall freely.
From the mid-forehead to the back of the neck, a narrow strip of hair is allowed to grow. The remainder of the head has been shaved. In the United States of America, this hairstyle is known as a “Mohawk.” However, it has been practised as a tradition among Ethiopian young boys for many centuries.
It should be noted that Qaray is a child’s hairstyle, not one for a sexually mature and married individual. This style is appropriate for both sexes. In the United States, African Americans with mohawks are sometimes referred to as black mohawks or Fro Hawks. Fro is an abbreviation for Afro.
Other less trendy Ethiopian Hair Styles
6. Sadula Ethiopian Hair Style:
This is worn by teenagers aged 15 to 21. They shave the top of their heads but leave the fringes uncut.
The shaved hair is then allowed to grow back only after they have matured and married. The first growth of this shaved hair after marriage is known as “Endermamit” or “Fesesay.” The non-shaved hair, i.e. the fringe, is braided or combed into an Afro. The Amharas, Tigreans and a few other Ethiopian tribes are the primary practitioners of the Sadula.
6. Hamar Bumi and Karo (Southwestern Ethiopians):
Hamar Bumi and Karo men wear clay hair buns that represent the death of an enemy or a dangerous animal. The hairstyle can be worn for up to a year. A small holder for ostrich feathers is made above the brow. Hamar men braid their hair into cornrows as well.
7. Hamar Bumi and Karo (For women):
Unmarried women have their hair rubbed with fat into small balls before being covered with ochre. After marriage, these women change their hairstyle by transforming the balls into long, twisted strands rubbed in ochre. Typically, a fancy decorative ornament is included in the hairdo.
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