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The Digital Photography Archives Making Sure Arab History Isn’t Forgotten

From Cairo to Nazareth

You might have a vague idea of what Iraq looked like in the 1960s. Perhaps you’ve come across a series of photos floating on the internet. But if you’re on the hunt for visuals of a particular era, where does one go?  

The region isn’t short of photographers who have documented our pasts. There was Marie el-Khazen, one of the Arab world’s first female photographers, who trailed rural life in 1920s Lebanon.

There’s also Syria’s Jibrail Jabbur, who offered a deep insight into the daily lives of Syrian bedouins in the early 20th Century. Not to mention Hashem El Madani, who left behind a gargantuan 75,000 image collection left by capturing everyday Lebanon in the 60s and 70s.

Then, there’s the countless number of family photos, left to dust in the depths of suitcases. But thanks to growing efforts to preserve the history of Middle Eastern photography, even those have found a home on the internet.  

So, if you’ve ever wondered what a Palestinian auntie’s wedding looked like in the 60s, check out these digital archives. 

The Middle East Archive Project

The crowd-sourced digital photo archive founded by UAE-based photo-journalist Darah Ghanem showcases intimate family photos from the region as well as from Arab communities abroad. The photographs document everyday life over the last 100 years and through historic events like World War One and the Armenian genocide in the early 1900’s. 

Arab Image Foundation

The Beirut-based non-profit organization, which is dedicated to unearthing and preserving photography from the region, has a collection of over 500,000 photographs and documents from the Middle East to North Africa. Its digital platform makes available archival content dating from the 1860s, spanning 50 countries.

Al-Ameen Archive

Launched by Palestinian photographer Mahmoud Manaa, Al-Ameen Archive documents wedding ceremonies and social events in Palestine between the 60s and the 90s. Bride and groom photographs, traditional ‘zaffe’ and more.



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Une publication partagée par Cairobserver (@cairobserver)

Cairobserever is dedicated to architecture and urban history in Egypt. Launched in 2011 by Mohamed Elshahed, author of ‘Cairo Since 1900: An Architectural Guide’, the online zine features photography from Cairo’s remote neighborhoods to archival material from ancient Egyptian sites.

Documenting Palestine

The archive sources coloured photographs dating back to the late 1800s as well as black and white photography exploring Palestinian identity, traditions, and bedouin heritage. From Gaza to Nazareth, Documenting Palestine also shares footage from rare short films and documentaries about Palestine.


Main image: Middle East Archive Project

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