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In the Afar Badlands, Paul Salopek's guide Alema and Afar herders use dagu as a way to share vital news along the trail.


5 - 12


English Language Arts, Social Studies, Geography, Anthropology, Storytelling

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In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of Paul Salopek's first steps on his Out of Eden Walk journey, this dispatch is now available for educational use in fifth- and eighth-grade reading levels. The original text is available as the default reading level, as well as on the Out of Eden Walk website.

By Paul Salopek


For nomadic zones in Africa, the concept of the Web has been around for a long time. Fast, correct information is important for survival. Information can help nomads locate water holes or avoid cattle thieves. It is not a luxury.

In the plains of Ethiopia, the Afar herders have a system for sharing news called dagu. Anyone walking through the landscape can be stopped and pressed for information. It is a required conversation. Phrases such as, “how is it?” (wagari) and “it is clear” (sahali), are repeated many times between other more important questions. The speakers squeeze each other dry of details. The word me’enahai signals the end of the exchange. To outside ears, it can sound like two computers “talking” in code.

Kassa Negussie Getachew claims that information from a dagu is more correct than what we find on the Internet. He is an Ethiopian anthropologist who has written a book on Afar culture. “You have to tell things exactly in a dagu. Whether a man has a scar on the left side of his forehead, for example. This will be passed exactly through many people. Even your walk will be part of the dagu exchanges all the way to Djibouti.”

View the original dispatch on the OOEW site to hear an Afar dagu exchange.

Media Credits

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Oliver Payne
Text Levels
Web Producer
Bayan Atari, National Geographic Society
Instructional Designer
Dan Byerly, National Geographic Society
With help froms
Claudia Hernandez-Halper
Kate Gallery, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Last Updated

January 22, 2024

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