Photo essay: Meet the sellers and volunteers at Reel Palestine

Annual event has grown from a film festival to an all-encompassing event celebrating Palestine

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Reel Palestine has returned. The annual festival, which runs until Sunday, celebrates independent films from Palestine with screenings, Q&A sessions, masterclasses and workshops at Cinema Akil in Dubai.

But it has grown to become more than just movies. Also returning is the Reel Palestine Souq, which displays Palestinian businesses sharing crafts, artworks, artisanal condiments and cuisine.

Founded by a group of friends in Dubai in 2014, Reel Palestine is a non-profit, volunteer organisation that launched its first pop-up festival in January 2015.

Here’s a look at some of the stories from the retailers at this year's event.

Tamara Mehelba, Barakeh Olive Oil

“I chose to join Reel Palestine because I want to show solidarity with Palestine and I want to show how important olive oil is to Palestine. What’s so special is that when you taste it, you feel like you’re living in a different world. It has a bit of citrus, which gives it a good kick, and I feel like olive oil in Palestine is different to every olive oil in every other place. What I really like about Reel Palestine is seeing people from different nationalities standing in solidarity with Palestine and seeing how enthusiastic people are.”

Rawan Badarneh, Fyrouzi Ceramics

“It’s a great event to be part of the Palestinian community to celebrate and showcase the talent, the culture and the beauty of the Palestinian history and culture. It’s been a great place where we get to meet each other, express the things that we’re going through as a community, especially this year when the things happening in Gaza. This is a time where we come all together to show solidarity. So this is a great platform. And also it gives us the opportunity to showcase the art of the handmade ceramics.

"It's one of the oldest industries in Palestine. It's one of the traditional crafts that it has been inherited across generations for more than 400 years. Unfortunately, the artisans in Palestine, they go through a lot of challenges when it comes to market and access to new markets globally. So this is our mission at Fyrouzi is to showcase the beauty of this art and to help artisans back home in Palestine to reach new markets, opening new opportunities for them, and also helping in preserving this traditional craft to go more and more generations.”

Amal Al Nashif, volunteer for Inaash

“I'm a volunteer with Inaash, which is a Lebanese NGO that provides employment opportunities for Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon. And what we're looking at here is an array of all of these items that they produce, from trays to handbags and scarves, all of which represent the traditional Palestinian heritage and different manifestations. And I'm here today to just help promote their beautiful work and contribute to their sales.”

Dima Abu Qaoud, Madeena the Doll

“We started Madeena four years ago to preserve the culture through embroidery. We use dolls to portray the beauty of our culture and embroidery. We help local women working in the fields of embroidery. We support them by giving them jobs. This is the second time I have participated in Reel Palestine. It was great last year, people love supporting anything that's Palestinian. I felt this year would be the same and I am happy to join.”

Ibrahim Bader, The Coral Beach

“We came to Dubai because the situation back home is very difficult at the moment because of the war. Our shop has been closed for the past 120 days. And we've been asked to participate in Dubai and to bring our products in order to help our people back home. We’re giving 30 per cent of our income to the people of Gaza. I've seen that all the people, most of them are feeling with Palestine and the Palestinians. And we thank the government of the Emirates for allowing us to come and participate.”

Tala Hammash, Jenin

“We source olive oil, olives and a few other products from our family farm in Jenin in Palestine. Those products are sumac, zaatar, freekeh and sage and obviously with the olives and olive oil. We're here every year. We would not miss this for the world. Reel Palestine to be honest, it kind of became our Christmas in a way. We look forward to it every single year. It's where we see our community, our kin, almost like we're not related by blood, but it always feels like we see our family here.

"Every year we're coming together, not just as vendors but also as people who represent the Palestinian identity. And to us, existence is a form of resistance and a form of survival. And we're really proud of that and we love to showcase our products, our heritage, our culture and show it to the world.”

Ziad Al Zaanon, Alwan

“In 2020, during Covid, we started doing masks based on our Palestinian keffiyeh and Jordanian shemagh, and then from that we moved into doing T-shirts and other types of clothing. The reason why we’re in Reel Palestine is because we are focused mostly on Palestinian-influenced clothing. So Reel Palestine is a great place for us to basically display and showcase our products and represent our country.”

Updated: February 02, 2024, 6:01 PM