Palestinian couple's refugee camp engagement photos light up social media with love

Rayan Sokkar wanted the photos taken at the Shatila camp in Lebanon, because it was the place where she was born and raised

One Palestinian couple's unique engagement photos have been shared around the world via social media.

Newly engaged Rayan Sokkar and Samih Mazien Mahmoud decided to take their engagement photos at the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon. Why? Because both of them have called it home.

When Sokkar shared their photos with friends and family on Facebook, she didn't imagine they would be shared by "so many people".

I see the camp as a beautiful place, a place that illuminates beauty all the time through the spirit of the people in it

"I was shocked," Sokkar tells The National. "I completely didn't expect that."

Sokkar, 24, was born and raised in Shatila; while Mahmoud, 23, moved to the camp after leaving Al Yarmouk in Syria in 2013.

Shatila, which was established in 1949, is home to more than 10,000 Palestinian refugees.

The photos, taken by their friend Omar Ahmad, show the beauty of the camp, its small alleys and chaotically wired roofs: but these are relics that also echo hardship.

Sokkar tells us that she doesn't see contradiction in the photos of a happy moment being taken at the camp. "I'm looking at it from the inside," she says. "This is my camp, this is my home and this is my life and I'm happy with that frame … I'm proud that we're able to succeed and prove ourselves from nothing, whether it's with school, work or marriage."

Sokkar says that, while she left the camp three years ago, her love for the place is so much a part of her. "I lived the most beautiful childhood there and it makes me sad when people speak negatively of it," she says. "I simply wanted to say that we are still alive and happy. Our camps are not just places where we live under rough circumstances, but they're also this small place where we build a future for ourselves."

The photographer, Ahmad, was delighted when his friends asked him to take their official photos. "The camp has always been seen through the lens of security tensions, but these photos have really shown us its beauty as well," he tells The National.

"Despite the hardship, I see the camp as a beautiful place, a place that illuminates beauty all the time through the spirit of the people in it." Even during the photo session, passersby were taking pictures of the couple on their mobile phones, he says.

In one photo, Sokkar and Mahmoud are standing against a wall with a quote by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish that reads: "We have our little dreams, as if awakening from sleep, free from disappointment, we did not dream of things that are hard, we are alive and remain, and the dream is the rest."

When I ask Sokkar what she has in mind for the wedding photos, she jokes about a tour across the camps. Wherever it is they decide to take them, it's certain they will be as beautiful as the spirit of the people in them.

Updated: July 16, 2020 02:22 PM


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