Horn of Africa

About This Project

Peter Schoenborn’s quest for endangered beauty and its preservation starts in the Horn of Africa, the region that modern anthropologists describe as the ‘cradle of mankind’ and the beauty of whose people Homer described as ‘faultless’. We are led on a fascinating tour by the alluring Queen of Sheba, one of the earliest examples of renowned beauty, from her lasting impact on King Solomon to the modern lionesses of today’s catwalks. We discover the trade and barter in beautification, ranging from the profuse use of glass beads along the Indian Ocean to the introduction of the silver thaler coin, commemorating the Austrian empress Maria Theresa, by the Turks. The lost Ark of the Covenant lures us to Axum with its ancient symbols and rich heritage. Unrequited, we travel west to the mystical islands of Lake Tana, guarded by the Coptic priesthood, to seek the heavenly cosmetics found there. The serene Afar women live and maintain their tranquil beauty in the heart of a naturally hostile and war-torn landscape. We travel far south to the remote black queens of the Omo Valley, meeting bellicose athletes known to rapidly empty visitors’ pockets, as they are consummate fleecers. High up in the Bati marketplace, on the very edge of the Great Rift Valley, we find ourselves in an African melting pot, as people travelling from the mountaintops and the deep canyons gather here to trade. In the ancient trading post of Harar, we meet nomads of the Nubian Desert, traders of gold, spices, etan and myrrh, their women veiled behind the bui-bui, and enveloped in the aroma of exotic perfumes.