“We’re almost there” A Bedou’ white lie to get you to the top of the mountain. Sheikh Jamil, tribe elder and leader of Sheikh Awad village, natural medicine expert and guide aged 67. December 2016.
Up until the 1990’s women were prohibited from being seen by men from other tribes without consent. As the technology evolved, the awareness of the circulation of an image on social media and lack of control of who gets access to an image escalated this concern, leading some women from never being photographed in fear of uncontrolling its access, circulation and how they’re represented. Collaboratively working with the female Bedouins, every woman photographed adds embroidery on to her portrait printed on fabric. She has full control over what to reveal or conceal using the traditional medium of embroidery. Taking full control over her representation in the project.
Nadia, 23 year old bride to be from Sheikh Awad village. Collaborative portrait: photograph printed on fabric, embroidery work by Nadia. December 2019.
Expensive in material - less traditional garments are made as the local economy declines leading women to wear generic clothing items imported by vendors from other cities in Egypt. Nevertheless, traditions evolve and stay alive: women specifically brides-to-be make fashion statements by wearing garments gifted to them by their husbands to be; a sort of subtle flirtation as she walks everyday into the mountains. April 2019.
Photos of male members of the family are hung around a mirror frame in the elders family home. February 2021.
With limited resources and a deep connection to nature, goats have become a valuable member of the Bedouin family and a provider of food and warmth. February 2021.
Moussa Algebaly (25) from the Jebeleya tribe lies under the "flower" plant after daily maintenance in his garden in Al Tarfa, South Sinai, Egypt. After years of drought, a major flood occurred in mid-March 2020, providing an agricultural opportunity for the Bedouin community amid the economic impacts caused by the pandemic. For the community whose main source of income is tourism, the flood is a miracle. The land has given back to its keepers in the time of crisis. April 2020.
Considered as sacred grounds, Bedou’ homes are only open to men from the family or female neighbours. Everyone; strangers or friends are welcomed to the guest yard where they’re greeted by the children and the man of the house. Depending on the closeness of the relationship-specific chambers are open. April 2019.
We are the Arabs the genuine Bedou’
We carry loyalty and kindness at heart
We walk with all kinds with no hate
We protect our guests and welcome them
No color but all color equally
Equals without calculations
We shake hands to form bonds
Our hearts has no doubt but agony
Poetry created and written by Seliman
Abu Anas Poetry in the Bedou’culture is a daily practice of self expression, embedded in the Bedou’ blood. The project collects original poetry written by male members of the community to then be depicted in photographs or vice versa, resulting in a series of diptychs illustrating this conversation between mediums.
Mohamed Ghonim (12) adjusts his scarf as he plays with his friends in Gharba Valley. Sheikh Awad village, South Sinai, Egypt, March 2020.
Young women in villages are in charge of walking the family herd on a daily basis. A sisterhood develops between the girls as they walk together and create a special language in a form of different loud screams to communicate between the mountains as they walk. February 2021.
Bedouin villages in Sinai are caressed in between mountains, protected from wind and eternally connected. January 2021.
The Longing Of The Stranger Whose Path Has Been Broken
The Longing Of The Stranger Whose Path Has Been Broken is a personal project in which I reconnect to my roots and explore the meaning of home and the idea of belonging in the liminal Bedouin life in South Sinai, Egypt. Working collaboratively with the Bedouin community to depict a contemporary portrayal of the Bedou’ identity, the project invites the community to engage with the photographic bodies of work including their commentary in traditional mediums such as poetry, sound, embroidery and plant foraging.
Since the end of the Israeli war retrieval of Sinai by 1982, most surviving archives about Sinai were stored in the St. Catherine’s monastery; one of the world’s oldest monasteries, protected by seven Muslim Bedouin tribes called Tawara. In accordance with the Egyptian government, archives are prohibited to be accessed – withholding the history of the land, its people and my family’s.
Despite inhabiting and protecting the Sinai lands for hundreds of years, the Bedouin communities remain in constant struggle with authorities; facing discrimination, stigma & stereotyping. Described as traitors for remaining in Sinai during war they’re misrepresented in the media. Remarked as closed off and a threat to modern societies, Bedouins are treated as second-class citizens. Their way of life is threatened as the economy declines, social stigma remains and lack of infrastructure, medical-care and educational access, leaving more generations with loss of identity.
Honouring the Bedou’ story, the community became collaborators, engaging with the photographic bodies of work. Taking control over their representation by using traditional mediums as visual commentary and being part of the creative process off camera. The commentary involves voices of different genders and generations. It highlights the social injustice and stigma surrounding Native communities at large.
This ongoing project started in 2018 after almost seven years of research to discover my connection to the Bedouin community. I grew up not knowing where I come from. Having a peculiar last name that is translated to the word “guide”, our family was rumoured to have come from Bedouin and Palestinian roots, without further evidence. During research, I discovered my Bedouin ancestry but unable to find archives due to lack of access. The title of the project is derived from Bedou’ poetry; referencing myself as the stranger and connecting to the primary story – the Bedou’.
Over the years, my relationship with the Bedouin community grew strong. Having mutual trust and candid friendships with many of the collaborators has gained me access to intimate spaces and knowledge of my roots. My role as a visual storyteller has expanded from social advocacy. In collaboration with tribe elders, we established a community centre/clinic in the heart of the mountains to provide free medical and educational services.
This project has become my journey to explore the meaning of belonging and celebrate the Bedouin identity through the diverse voices of the community. The project attempts to understand the layers of an identity and the intertwined connections between the Bedouin community and the Sinai lands which defines the notion of belonging.