Remembering the Journey: The Road to Baqa'a

29 November 2013

In Baqa'a camp, outside Amman, George Nehmeh had emotional reunions with two families he had photographed a few years after they had fled across the River Jordan during the hostilities of 1967.

Mariam Ajjoury and her husband, Suleiman, had to leave the Aqbat Jabr camp near Jericho. Taking their two little children, a tea kettle and a radio, they faced the harsh winter of snowfall and mudslides in the Karame camp, on the East Bank. Renewed fighting in spring meant they had to flee again - this time, to Baqa'a, outside Amman, where they opened a supermarket and raised a family: They have 10 children and 70 or 80 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Rubhi Abdel Hafez Naf'a and his sister were sent out of Kalandia camp, near Ramallah, by their mother, who stayed behind to tend to her own mother, too weak to flee. After she finally arrived in Jordan, Umm-Rubhi looked for her children for days before she finally found them in al-Nasr camp. Rubhi grew up in those camps; he became first a clerk and then an UNRWA teacher in Baqa'a. He still lives in a house outside Baqa'a, with his five children and his mother. 

George Nehmeh, born in Beirut, was an UNRWA photographer and filmmaker from 1960 to 1996. During this period, he captured dramatic moments in the history of the Palestine refugees in films and photographs. Recently, he visited camps in Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, meeting with people he had photographed during his career.

'The Long Journey', an exhibition unveiling the newly digitized UNRWA film and photo archive, opens on Thursday 28 November at 6 p.m. at the Al-Ma'mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in the Old City of Jerusalem.