Palestine Photo Series
Occupied Palestine, 2012
This Palestine photo series was inspired by my mama. I was honored and overjoyed when my mama asked me to go through the photos I took from my Palestine trip back in 2012 for the purpose of hanging them in the living room for all to view. The photos were chosen by my mama and represent the beauty of several cities I visited in the West Bank of Occupied Palestine. It has been years since I have been able to go through my pictures from this particular life changing trip. I hope you all enjoy coming along with me on my journey through pictures.
[All images belong to Haneen Oriqat Photography. Logo placement intended for website copyright purposes.]
Masjid Al Aqsa, Old City of Jerusalem
Sometimes referred to as Haram Al-Sharif and also known as Bayt Al Maqddis (Holy House), Masjid Al Aqsa is the 3rd holiest site in Islam. This site was the first Qibla (direction of prayer) before the Kaabah in Mecca. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] took the Night Journey of Israa and Miraaj (known as the Ascent into Heaven), in which he was transported from the Great Mosque of Mecca (Masjid Al Haram or Sacred Mosque) to Masjid Al Aqsa. It is also believed that the site of Masjid Al Aqsa was where all the earlier Prophets that ever lived gathered together behind the Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] for congregational prayer during that extraordinary night right before he ascended into Heaven.
Nablus, West Bank, Occupied Palestine
Nablus is located in northern West Bank, north of Jerusalem. It is home to An-Najah National University, the largest Palestinian university in the West Bank. However, Nablus is most famous for its culture and food. While Nabulsi, meaning “from Nablus”, soap and cheese are well-known throughout the Levant and Arab world, Nablus is most famous for its Knafeh, my favorite dessert. Other sweets made in Nablus also include baklava, tamriya, mabrumeh, and ghuraybeh. I couldn’t resist taking this photo of a sweets shop in Nablus as I inhaled the delicious smells wafting down the busy street in the center of town.
Steps in Old Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine
Beautiful steps hidden in the middle of the souk (market) near Kaneesit il Mahd, or Church of Nativity. This is one of my favorite shots taken while strolling with my aunt through the streets and shops of Bethlehem.
Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine
This breathtaking shot of the Dome of the Rock will always be etched into my memory. Taking this photo was a privilege. I was only able to stand where I was standing in this specific spot in the outskirts of Jerusalem because I carry a USA passport and was traveling with family members living in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, and all cities in Occupied Palestine, there are Israeli only and Palestinian only roads dictated on by the Israeli government. When visiting, I was privileged to have family members that carry a Jerusalem ID issued only to Palestinians living in Jerusalem. This gives them more freedom of movement not granted to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, while still maintaining their second class citizenship. This photo captures a moment and emotional response that I will never forget.
Key of Return | Jericho, West Bank, Occupied Palestine
This Key of Return stands at the entrance to the city of Jericho, known as Areeha in Arabic. Jericho is one of the oldest cities in the world and the lowest place on Earth, 1300 feet below sea level, that can be inhabited. The Key of Return symbolizes the Palestinian right of return, which is the principle that Palestinian refugees, both first generation and their descendants, have a right to return and a right to the property in which they or their ancestors were forcibly removed or displaced by the Israeli government. This key stands as a symbol of hope for all Palestinians. It was heartwarming to stop at this spot with my paternal uncle and his wife, knowing this is the entrance to the city in which my own father was born and raised. Jericho, my father’s city, will always have a special place in my heart.
The Apartheid Wall | Bethlehem, West Bank, Occupied Palestine
The Apartheid Wall in Occupied Palestine is currently 8 meters (approximately 26 feet) high – twice the height of the Berlin Wall – with an estimated total completion length of 810 km. The wall was introduced by the Israeli government under the false impression that it is being built for the security of the state. In reality, the wall cuts deep into the West Bank, furthering the theft and devastation of Palestinian land, people, and livelihood. This wall is far from establishing any security.
I have always seen pictures of the wall, but visiting the actual wall throughout several cities in the West Bank was shocking. I can’t explain the emotions that pulsed through my body to stand next to the towering wall. The wall includes checkpoints and towers with Israeli soldiers and snipers. A prison, that is how I felt being in the cities where the wall cut through.
This specific portion stands in Bethlehem, where my paternal aunts live. The grafitti and artwork seen on the wall tell true stories of Palestinian experiences and/or symbolize the resistance of the Palestinian people living under occupation. To learn more and educate yourself about the wall, visit stopthewall.org.
Palestinian Heritage Center | Bethlehem, West Bank, Occupied Palestine
I fell in love with this shop in Bethlehem. Named the Palestinian Heritage Center, this shop carried all kinds of incomparable and priceless items with the famous Palestinian tatreez, or embroidery. Each city in Palestine has its own unique embroidery and style that represents that city. This photo only captures one small corner. The shop had different kinds of Thobe [or cultural dress], pillows, art pieces, various types of house decor, and even an entire area furnished to look like the traditional Palestinian living room seating. I wanted to buy everything and ship it back home to California! I did walk out with very beautiful items for my family. And some special ones for myself, of course. Seeing the unique tatreez, especially when stitched by hand, is a wonderful reminder of the history and beauty of Palestine.
Masjid Al Aqsa Corridor | Old City of Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine
I fell in love with this corridor outside of Masjid Al Aqsa. There was a peaceful presence to the sun-kissed brick hall. A beautiful feeling of serenity before entering the holy site. Sometimes referred to as Haram Al-Sharif and also known as Bayt Al Muqaddas (Holy House), Masjid Al Aqsa is the 3rd holiest site in Islam. To learn a little more about this beautiful mosque, I invite you to visit the first picture in my 12 day photo series that I posted a few days ago when I shared a stunning picture taken inside Masjid Al Aqsa.
Farmers Market | Ramallah, West Bank, Occupied Palestine
I loved this photo so much and remember asking my paternal aunt to stop so I can get pictures. It made her laugh. To her, a farmers market is the only way to buy fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, you name it. I don’t remember seeing an western style grocery store the entire time I was visiting Jerusalem and the West Bank. There were small shops within the alleys of the souk that sold spices, coffee, and all kinds of sweets. To buy your fresh groceries, farmers markets were a must. I loved the hustle and bustle, hearing the farmers barter, and watching the people weaving between each other to get their crop of the day. The area was so full of life!
Stone Building | Bethlehem, West Bank, Occupied Palestine
I fell in love with the buildings in Palestine, especially the old structures full of history and culture. Every home, apartment building, structure was unique in style and architecture. The one strong similarity was the foundation. All the buildings were either made of stone or brick. Bethlehem is built with stone, due to its weather and mountain terrain. In all other cities, stone was more common among the wealthier families. The buildings made of brick were dressed, or covered, with stone for style. However, throughout the country, all buildings were built with strong and stable materials. This was incredible to me. I live in an area of Southern California, specifically in San Diego, where brush fires can wipe out an entire city within days if not contained. Buildings here, made mostly of wood, are susceptible to quick destruction by just lighting a match. Since California is susceptible to earthquakes, the best and cheapest material is metal frames and wood. In Palestine, the home is strong, like its beautiful people.
Sand Art Shop | Al Khalil, West Bank, Occupied Palestine
In the last remaining souk of the old city of Al Khalil, also known as Hebron, Abu Saad creates works of art from colorful sand in various glass bottle sizes. I found out that Abu Saad, trained in college in Jordan, has been doing this for 37 years (as of the year 2012). Al Khalil is known as the most dangerous city in the West Bank due to constant attacks on Palestinians faced by the settlers living in the illegal settlements beside the Palestinian neighborhoods. The souk itself is comprised of one long and very tight alley with a few shops leading to the Masjid of Abraham. Walking through the souk, you recognize quickly that it’s quite dark. Looking up, I was shocked to find a ceiling made of mesh and cloth preventing all kinds of trash from falling, thrown there by by settlers. It is a city that the majority of my family has never tried to enter due to security reasons. My paternal aunt rushed us into the city and out so that I could have the blessing of visiting the holy site. This sand art shop stood out with its beauty among the city known for its great struggle under occupation. To learn more about Al Khalil, I recommend to all a wonderful documentary called Welcome to Hebron by Swedish filmmaker Terje Carlsson. More info can be found at welcometohebronmovie.com.
Dome of the Rock | Old City of Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine
I had been in Palestine for a few days, but it was not until I was walking the streets of the Old Jerusalem souk and spotted the golden dome did I truly believe that my dream had come true. I was indeed in Palestine, the land of my parents and ancestors. The Dome of the Rock sits atop Haram Al-Sharif, the highest point in Old Jerusalem. It’s golden dome, Turkish Faience blue tiles, and Islamic scripture is absolutely breathtaking, and even more so in person. This holy site is significant to Muslims. In the center of the Dome of the Rock sits a large, black rock. This is the spot that Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] took the Night Journey of Israa and Miraaj (known as the Ascent into Heaven). Being in this very spot was one I will never forget and pray I will once again have the blessing to visit.
I will leave you with the words of Ibn Battuta, the 14th century travel writer, “The Dome of the Rock is a building of extraordinary beauty, solidity, elegance, and singularity of shape… Both outside and inside, the decoration is so magnificent and the workmanship so surpassing as to defy description. The greater part is covered with gold so that the eyes of one who gazes on its beauties are dazzled by its brilliance, now glowing like a mass of light, now flashing like lightning.”
More photography from each city will be coming soon!