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The Somali, also pastoral nomads, forge a living in hot and arid bush country, while the Afar, semi-nomadic pastoralists and fishermen, are the only people who can survive in the hostile environment of the Danakil Depression.Living near the Omo River are the Mursi, well-known for the large clay discs that the women wear inserted in a slit in their lower lips.The lowland Somali and Afar wear long, brightly coloured cotton wraps, and the Oromo and Bale people are to be seen in the bead-decorated leather garments that reflect their economy, which is based on livestock.

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The Gurage grow enset, 'false banana', whose root, stem and leaf stalks provide a carbohydrate which, after lengthy preparation, can be made into porridge or unleavened bread.

The Cushitic Oromo, formerly nomadic pastoralists, are now mainly engaged in agriculture and, in the more arid areas, cattle-breeding.

The principle Semitic language spoken in the north-western and central part of the country is Amharic, which is also the official language of the modern state.

Other main languages are Tigrigna, Guraginya, Adarinya, Afan Oromo, Somalinya, Sidaminya, Afarinya, Gumuz, Berta and Anuak.

In the heat of the lowland plains, light cotton cloths are all that is required by men and women alike.