Mahmoud Ahmed, an Ethiopian singer of Gurage a...

Mahmoud Ahmed, an Ethiopian singer of Gurage ancestry, in 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I did not acquire a camera until 1966, when I took a trip to Cairo, Beirut, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Spain, en route to the United States for a home visit in August prior to my one year Peace Corps contract renewal. As a result, most of the early photos of my stay in Emdeber were taken by others. Most of the images shown here were taken by Dick Coolidge during a visit in early 1966, with a few others taken by miscellaneous others. They convey a combination of distance and intimacy at a time when Ethiopia seemed as strange and as exotic a place as one could imagine. In a village with no electricity, no running water, and in which provisions in the market were largely interrupted during the rainy season because the road was impassable, your sense of time and place were guided as much by local friendships as they were by the periodic shortwave broadcasts that you followed on events taking place elsewhere


Emdeber town hall, Ato Shoa, local architect, at left

Interior of Jack Caraco’s Gurage sauer bét, with local bed. We all wound up contracting with Ato Menjie to have them made for us and friends alike.


View of the Emdeber Catholic mission church from my window, 1966

Abba Petros Dubalie, Emdeber Catholic mission priest, who taught himself English largely through listening to the BBC and local schooling.

Typical local Gurage house, just outside my own, in Emdeber, 1966

Local Gurage women, 1966


The Emdeber government school, built in 1955, as it appeared in 1966. Not shown are locally built classrooms to house students in the elementary school.


The Emdeber public school library, a project financed in part with funding from U.S. AID. The library was burned by rioters during the terror days of the late 1970s.

Interior of PLB house, with home-made bookshelf. Shortwave radio under dust cover at right, battery-powered turntable on shelf enabled playing of 1920 78 rpm recording of Enrico Caruso by La Voce del Padre, from a collection brought by Italian missionaries to Emdeber in 1928. On wall at left is a picture of the Gurage Road Construction Organization.

Interior of PLB house, with locally made Gurage bed, one of many carved by Ato Menjie.

Interior of PLB house, with locally made furniture, a temporary cot for visitors, and baskets. Harar basket at left, Gurage table basket in center, and Jimma basket on right.


Ceiling of PLB house, with typical umbrella-style roof support


PLB preparing to ride horse first acquired by Jack Caraco and then purchased by PLB, 1966

PLB on horse – this was the typical mode of travel off-road for distances greater than a local walk. Horses in this part of Ethiopia were relatively small and care was needed to keep them from stress.

PLB ad local fresh-water spring. This was a source of drinking water (that had to be boiled first), as well as water for washing clothes. It was widened an deepened by ease of access by Jack Caraco and PLB in 1965.


Judy Hagens and Sudy Harris, Peace Corps volunteer friends assigned to Kombolcha, and dressed in traditional Ethiopian clothing, 1966

Sudy Harris and Judy Hagens with three of their students in Kombolcha, 1966

PLB holding Gurage fly whisk for feature story published in the Salisbury Daily Times in August 1966. Photo and story by Orlando Wooten. Weight loss was significant in that high calorie foods were generally not available in Emdeber.

PLB, Freyew Azmatch, and Kathy Moore – lunch at Kathy’s house, 1967

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Gurage Clouds (part 2)

Gurage Clouds (part 2) (Photo credit: GurageDance)


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