Summer in Oromia

I left my home country Oromia at the age of 12 and immigrated to the Pacific Northwest United States. After saving up enough money I finally went back home at the age of 21. In those years that I was away from home I dedicated my time to learning about the history, the landscape and the culture of Oromia. The research that I did was a way to fill the void in my heart and prevent me from feeling too home sick. So when I finally purchased my plane ticket I made a list of all the places that I wanted to visit and one of the places that was on top of my list was the Sof Omar Caves.

I've learned a lot about Sof Omar Caves from the research that I did as well as by asking my parents firsthand. Sof Omar Caves are connected to Bale Mountains National Park by the Weib river that flows through the Bale mountains. This river flows provides fresh water all year long that nurtures the community near as well as the surrounding environment. It is said that the Sof Omar cave system is one of the world's most spectacular and extensive underground caverns. The Weib river flows 15.1 kilometres through the underground caverns making it the  longest cave in Ethiopia and the largest system of caves in Africa. This place has a spiritual connection for the native people (Oromo) of the land. The Cave was used as a place of worship were people prayed, made a sacrifice of animals and other goods in return for the things that they desired. The First religions in this part of Africa were essentially spirit worship in which the most powerful supernatural beings were believed to attach themselves to trees, rocks, and—most forcefully—to caves, which became shrines for prayer and sacrifice. 

 Photo of Hamziye Aman overlooking the Weib River in Oromia (Photo credit: Zame Aman).

Photo of Hamziye Aman overlooking the Weib River in Oromia (Photo credit: Zame Aman).

With this knowledge that I had I was more than excited when we eventually arrived at the Village of Sof Omar. Sof Omar is located atop of a cliff overlooking both the Weib river and the Cave. It took us about four hour of driving to reach it from the town of Bale Robe along a bumpy gravel road. The road was so bumpy so it made my stomach heave. It included dangerously narrow switchbacks along the side of a mountain.  Personally for me I enjoyed every minute it of! It was exciting and truly adventurous! I couldn't take my eyes away from the window as I tried my best to capture the thrill of it with my Sony Camera. 

As soon as we reached the village of Sof Omar we were greeted by native monkeys that wanted to take our food away. It was my first time ever being so close to any wild animal. Soon after we met with tour guide and his son. As we reached the cave I was blown away by the beauty of it—I had never seen anything like it. The tour guide explained to us that the cave was formed by the Weib River as the river carved a new channel through the limestone foothills. One of the main things that amazed me about the cave was the smooth texture of it and as I reach my hand up to feel it I was even more surprised. The cave was as smooth as  cleanly brushed teeth and it felt exactly the same. After exploring the outdoors and taking hundreds of pictures, we headed inside the cave. The shape of the cave was like a home, it had a roof and individual partitions that resembled rooms. As I looked up at the roof, I could hear distant noise of cars that was coming from above us and that was amazing to experience. We walked further and further into the cave until we found ourselves in pitch black, utter darkness. At first my eyes found it difficult to adjust. I looked around frantically searching for any source of light as panic set in.  After a couple minutes of panicking I told myself to calm down and to close my eyes and listen to the motions of the river. As a tour guide joked and told us stories about the sacrifices that were made inside the cave in the darkness I found myself being relaxed; the tenseness faded away. We eventually walked out of the cave and were immediately blinded by the bright sun overhead!

For me this was truly one of the most spectacular places that I have ever visited. I also understand that I was very privileged to be able to visit the Sof Omar Cave due to how inaccessible it is for people that don’t live in that community. It was also very special to me since I was able to explore my country on own for the first time. It’s surreal being able to see something you’ve looked at on computer for so long. 

 Photo of author, Hamziye Aman at the Sof Omar Cave (Photo credit: Zame Aman).      

Photo of author, Hamziye Aman at the Sof Omar Cave (Photo credit: Zame Aman).

 

 

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