Gurage is an ethnic group in Ethiopia. The Gurage people inhabit a semi-fertile, semi-mountainous region in southwest Ethiopia, about 150 miles southwest of Addis Ababa. Their homeland extends to the Awash River in the north, the Gibe River (a tributary of the Omo) to the southwest, and to Lake Zway in the east. The Gurage ethnic group has usually been said to consist of three distinct subgroups, Northern, Eastern and Western, but the largest grouping within the Eastern subgroup, known as the Silt'e, have not necessarily considered themselves to be Gurage, and in a referendum in 2000 they voted unanimously to break away from the Gurage Zone within the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region, forming their own autonomous region. [Vaughan, Sarah. "Ethnicity and Power in Ethiopia" (Chapter 7). PhD Dissertation. Edinburgh, Scotland: University of Edinburgh, 2003. [] ]


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 Axumite Kingdom which left military colonies that eventually became isolated from both northern Ethiopia and each other. [Henze, "Layers of Time" (New York: Palgrave, 2000), p. 112.]

The Gurage languages do not constitute a coherent linguistic grouping, rather, the term is both linguistic and cultural. The Gurage people speak a number of separate languages, all belonging to the Southern branch of the Ethiopian Semitic language family (which also includes Amharic). The languages are often referred to collectively as "Guraginya" by other Ethiopians ("-inya" is the Amharic suffix for most Ethiopian Semitic languages).

Gurage, also known as Guragie or ጉራጌ is written with the Ethiopic alphabet. The Guragie subset of Ethiopic has 44 independent glyphs.

There is no general agreement on how many languages or dialects there are, in particular within the West Gurage grouping.

The following are listed as separate languages by Ethnologue:
Soddo (Kistane), Inor, Mesqan, Mesmes, Silt'e (not strictly speaking a Gurage language since the people do not consider themselves Gurage), Zay, and Sebat Bet Gurage. Sebat Bet (or Sebat Beit), in particular, is best understood as a grouping in itself; the term means literally "Seven Houses," and refers to seven specific Western Gurage groups and lects. Silt'e is more closely related to Amharic than it is to Soddo.

As the Gurage people are surrounded by speakers of Cushitic languages, these languages have influenced the Gurage languages perhaps even more than they have other Ethiopian Semitic languages. For example, the East Gurage languages have a ten-vowel system characteristic of the neighboring Cushitic languages rather than the seven-vowel system common to most other Ethiopian Semitic languages, including the West Gurage languages.

Over 50 % of the Gurage claim allegiance to Ethiopian Orthodox Church, an Oriental Orthodox church related to Coptic Christianity, and another 40 % are adherents of Islam.

According to the 1994 Ethiopian census, self-identifying Gurage comprise about 4.3 % of Ethiopia's population, or about 3 million people. [ [ Ethiopia: A Model Nation of Minorities] (accessed 6 April 2006)]

The Gurage live a sedentary life based on agriculture, involving a complex system of crop rotation and transplanting. Ensete is their main staple crop, but other cash crops are grown, which include coffee and "chat". 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". [Nega Mezlekia, "Notes from the Hyena's Belly" (New York: Picador, 2000), p. 227.] One example of an enterprising Gurage is one Tekke, whom Nathaniel T. Kenney described as "an Ethiopian Horatio Alger":: 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. [Kenney, "Ethiopian Adventure", "National Geographic", 127 (1965), p. 582.]


The ensete or “false banana plant” has a massive stem that grows underground and is completely 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: uses of Ensete would be wrapping a corpse after death with it, or after birth, the umbilical cord being tied off with an ensete fiber.) Historically, westerners have nicknamed the Gurage "The People of the Ensete", since they are the only people in the world to cultivate ensete as a crop. Strangely enough, the nutritional value this plant contains as their primary food source is not considered to be of much importance. The plant can be prepared a number of different ways, and the practical uses of ensete in Gurage culture are varied. In addition to this plant, a few cash crops are maintained and livestock is raised (though mainly for milk and fertilizer). 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 sparingly during a ritual or ceremonial event.


: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. [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). p 117.]

Notable Gurage

* Yeshimebet Ali,(mother of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia )
* Dejazmach gebremariam Gari–Country Administrator
* Dejazmach Kifle Ergettu – Minister of Interior
* Lut.General Weldeselassie Berka –Comandor of special forces in the army/ armed forces
* General Welde Yohanes Shita – Second administreter of the Body Guard, Ambasador
* General Teshome Ergetu – Comandor of the Armed Forces, Chief of the Eritrean Police
* Ato Alfred Shafi–Director of Public administration,Vice minister of Interior minister
* Keng Azmach feleke Ergetu –(Has been in charge of Hizb Dehninet , Administrater, Minister
* Lt.General Weldeselassie Bereka –Comander of spezial forces in the armed forces Comander
* Maj. General Yilma Shibeshi – Commander of the police force
* General Assefa Hailemariam - administreter of Ethiopian Police College at sendafa
* Fitawrari Habtemariam weldekidan – Director under the ministry of Health,Admin of Gojjam
* Ato Weldegebriel Ambaw – A judge in the Supreme Court
* General Kifle Weldesenbet – Department Chief in the Ministry of Defence,In charge of Eduction
* General Gizaw Gebremikael – In charge of wealth and finance of the defence forces
* Ato Seifu Dibaba –Administreter of Gojjam ,Vice minister in the ministry of communication
* Fitawrari Roga Ashame – Governer of the Lakes and Butagira
* Maj. General Taye Balakir Sosum – Comander of Eritrean police force
* Ato Haile Gebre Meskel – Yshewa administration wanna tekotatari
* Azasz Hailu habte – Palace (Gibbi) Administreter
* Ato Abebe ketema – Minister of health
* Balcha Aba Nefso
* Fit Awrari Habte Giorgis
* Mahmoud Ahmed
* Dr. Kasu Elala
* Yemeru Nega - Dembel City Center
* Deguma Hunde - DH Geda
* Tewodros Kassahun ( Teddy Afro )
* Samuel Teferra - Sunshine Construction
* Wende - New York Cafe
* Ato.Tadesse Gebre-Kidan-Former Governorof the NBEthiopia, Minister of Foreign Trade&Ambasador
* Dr.BERHANE Gebre-kidan (CIMMYT East African Regional Maize Program )
* Dr.Berhanu Nega ,PhD in economics ( elected mayor of Addis Ababa )
* DR.Yacob Haile-Mariam,former NSU professor,Special Envoy of the UN prosecutorICT for Rwanda

ee also

* Soddo language
* Sebat Bet Gurage language



*Shack, William. "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, 1997.

External links

* [ Gurage Research] blog
* [ Gurage and Silte Research Group]
* [ The Gurage People – Carolyn Ford with SIM in Ethiopia]
* [ Facts about Gurage]
* [ GeoHive]

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