The South-Western Tourist Route
About the Route
The south-western Oromian tourist route starts from the scenic gorge of Gibe River and crossing Jimma town stretches to the town of Gore and the Tea Plantation of Gumero.
This route covers Jima and Illu Ababora zones, which are located in the tropical rain forest where region’s as well as the country’s surviving forest land is found.
Because of its rainy climate (6 months of rain in a year) the area is also known for its dramatic rivers and river falls. This area also marks places where old Ethiopian kingdom and trade flourished. Thus it is rich in historical heritages, natural resources and wood products and leather handicrafts.
Culture and Lifestyle
The Oromos settle in the south-western part of the region belong to the Meca Clan, one of the clan of Borena. The people of the south-western Oromia are major producers of cash crop such as coffee, chat and spices which are the main foreign income sources of the country.
The Organic coffee Arabica for which the country, is known is grown in this area under giant tree shades. This type of coffee sometimes grows in the wilderness of the forest, where a larger proportion of remaining natural forest in the country exists.
Coffee and species productions make the backbone of the economies of the people in the area from which the people of the south-west make their livelihoods, in addition to trading.
These people are also known for their colorful and impressive traditional coffee ceremony at which friends meet and share ideas. This ceremony is used to welcome guests with full affection and warmth. This area is the place where modern administration of kingdoms known as the five kingdoms of Gibe was flourished.
In their bright, colorful traditional clothes, the south-western Oromo people of Jima and Ilu Ababora zones are friendly people with good tradition of keeping their environment and political system, which make them worth visiting.
Reflections of the people’s culture, history, tradition and resources are well-kept at the Jima Museum and the King Aba Jifar’s Palace at which visitors enjoy.
Gibe Gorge – The Gibe River, which has its source at the highlands of West Shawa, flows a long distance to reach the scenic gorge of Gibe. At a point where we cross the river on the way to Jima, the river has got a lot of tributaries which contribute its volume. The grand gorge of the Gibe River, the vegetations around and landscape of the river are what tourists enjoy watching while traveling to the south-western Oromia.
Jimma, beyond the Gibe gorge, tourists enjoy watching the spectacular scenery of the land and its vegetations until they reach the artificial lake of Gilgel Gibe. People enjoy watching the view of this lake, which generates hydroelectric power and the landscape beyond the lake until they reach Jima which is located at the distance of 335 kilometers to the south-west of Addis Ababa; Jmma is one of the famous coffee growing areas in western Oromia. Ethiopia owes much of its coffee export to Jimma with other areas. Jimma area is believed to be the place where coffee originated.
Apart from its coffee production and intact natural beauty, Jimma is also known for its history. Jimma served as a center of the early Oromo monarchy known as the Five Gibe Kingdoms at a place site called Jiren, which is 9 kilometers to the north of Jimma. This line was the line of the 19th century long distance trade route whereby 30,000 people used to attend the ancient great Thursday market at Hirmata, the current site of the Jimma town.
Historical palace of Sultan Abba Jifar (1853-1925) and Jimma museum antiquities are also among the major historical heritages that make Jimma one of the major tourist destinations of Oromia.
Abba Jifar Palace (1853 – 1925): Before being incorporated into the central Christian Empire of Ethiopia, Jimma was one and the strongest of the five autonomous Gibe kingdoms of the Oromo people under the leadership of Abba Jifar Abba Gomal, best known as King Abba Jifar also known by his Islamic name (Sultan Muhammad Dawud Ibn Ibrahim) of Jimma.
Abba Jifar Palace
Towards the end of the 1860’s, King Abba Jifar built his palace at Jiren which costed him 400 kg. of gold and 65,000 Maria Theresa. This palace still stands with its colorful architectural beauty. In the compound of the palace, there are other four buildings: the public mosquareue, the mosquareue of Abba Jifar, residential palace of Abba Jifar and residential building of Abba Jobir Abba Dula (the grandson of Abba Jifar).
Jimma Museum displays most of the historic materials of King Abba Jifar, his kingdom and cultural objects of the local Oromo people and that of the other ethnic groups around Kafa. The first set of collection in this museum is the personal household furniture of the king which includes his beds, tables, arm chairs, utensils, religious manuscripts and others.
Tropical Forests of Jima and Ilu Aba Bora: Other attractions around Jimma which catch the eyes of tourists are patches of dense tropical jungles of different size in which many rivers and streams flow and different species of wildlife are inhabiting. One of these forest patches is Ballate Gera, to the south-east of Jimma on the area of 1048 square kilometers in which major rivers like Gojab Nuso and Mettu flow. Another jungle, Babbiya Folla, is located in Qarsa, Limmu, Kosa Manna, and Tiro Afata districts of Jimma Zone with an area of 740 square. kilometers. The forest is accessible via Jimma-Sarbo along the 22 kilometers asphalted and 3 kilometers dry weather road.
The Sigmo, Gabba, and Salem Wangas forests are also shared between Jimma and Ilu Abba Bora Zones. The former covers an area of 2000 square kilometers, while the later stretched over 4000 square kilometers in which vicinity big rivers like Gabba, Sor, Birbir, and Wangas flow.
Falls around Jima and Ilu: Due to high annual rainfall, Jimma and Ilu Abbabora zones are rich in river falls and tropical forest vegetation which make these zone one of the most resourceful areas in Oromia. There are a number of waterfalls in Jimma area among which Saqa Water Fall is the most magnificent one.
The fall of Dangawaj is found at the distance of 5kms along the dry weather road from Gachi town to the Jima Bedele, which is also worth mentioning.
Sor Water Fall: The road from Jimma to Mattu, via Aggaro and Baddalle towns, leads through vast and extensive tropical forests. Mattu, the capital of Ilu Abba Bora zone, is situated at 255 kilometers from Jimma, or 600 kilometers from Addis Ababa. A detour at the southern edge of Mattu on the left side of the main road from Mattu to Gore, leads visitors to reach the nearest site to Sor waterfall at the distance of 27 kilometers from Mattu. Quarter an hour down walk through the forest and coffee plantation on a narrow path takes visitors to one of Ethiopia’s most magnificent and delightful waterfalls of Sor River which pours over the lip of a broad chasm over 20 meters deep.
This natural amphitheater, heavily overgrown with tree ferns and grasses, forms a delightful spot to savor the primal atmosphere of Ilu Abba Bora Zone and the scenic beauty of the waterfall. The intact natural vegetation and the wildlife that take shelter in it enhance its attraction for sightseeing.
Gore Town: Set in five mountains scenery at the distance of about 618 kilometers from Addis Ababa, or 18 kilometers to the south of Mattu, Gore is a town of historical significance related to the history of local Oromo people (political and commercial importance of various periods) and the feudal monarchy of the Emperor Menelik of 19th century. It served as a head quarter of one of the Emperor’s principal commanders whose historical remnants are still seen.
Traversing the attractive Gumaro Tea Plantation and the panoramic landscape, the road to the south of Gore takes travelers to the neighboring Gambella National Regional State, and then to Dambidollo. Gore also served as the center of the British Council in the 1905. The office building of the council by itself appeals to visitors.