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The Longing Of The Stranger Whose Path Has Been Broken

Rehab Eldalil | Egypt

I grew up not knowing where I’m from, archives that hold the history of my family are lost between conflict and power struggle. I hold on to a conflicted connection to discover my roots within the mountains and find my place within its houses. My given name Eldalil ( meaning guide - traditionally families were given names based on their most celebrated craft) is my only truth and my only way of tracing my Bedouin and Palestinian ancestry.

Derived from a translated verse of Bedou’ poetry The Longing Of The Stranger Whose Path Has Been Broken is a personal project that explores the liminal spaces in the Bedouin life in St. Catherine, South Sinai, Egypt. Questioning the idea of belonging and finding our place that has been taken from us. And working collaboratively with members in the community to depict the contemporary Bedou’ identity within the socio-economic and political situation.

Remarked as traitors for remaining in Sinai during the war and a national threat lurking in the mountains, the Bedouin community became outcasts, second class citizens to post war Egypt. Segregated, Sinai became connected only by one tunnel to the main Egyptian lands. In the game of power between Bedou’ and authority; Bedouin communities are deprived from proper medical & educational access, infrastructure and stable income. Despite inhabiting & protecting the Sinai lands for hundreds of years, the communities remain in constant struggle with authorities, facing discrimination, stigma & stereotyping. Yet, the Bedou’ remain & adapt as they are the keepers of the land. This collaborative project is their story.

As I grew up in Egypt looking into the history of my country and region I wondered who I am. Am I African? Am I Arabic? Can I be both? Who are my ancestors? All questions with no answers, as I look into my family archive I find very little to track my ancestry. I was born and raised in Cairo Egypt, a country torn between two regions and torn from the inside between urban and native, culture and modernity. My connection with Sinai started out of curiosity towards a native Bedouin community in which I finally found traces of my roots. This discovery led me to question how Egyptians identify themselves and why so many generations led go of their roots and why native communities from all corners of the country have been dismissed.

This connection to my identity has motivated me to experiment with the depiction of identity and representation. In this project I work collaboratively with members of the Bedouin community to create an alternative narrative, question our ideas of belonging and emphasize the strong connection between people and land and the impacts of the power struggle between the community and authorities.

Since the end of the Israeli war in 1973 and retrieval of the Sinai land by 1982, most archives about Sinai have been stored in the St. Catherine’s monastery; one of the oldest monasteries in the world protected by Muslim Bedouin communities of seven tribes called Tawara رة�'طو. In accordance with the Egyptian government, the archival data in the monastery are prohibited to be accessed - withholding the history of the land, its people and my possibly family’s. I grew up not knowing where I’m from, archives that hold the history of my family are lost between conflict and power struggle. I hold on to a conflicted connection to discover my roots within the mountains and find my place within its houses. My given name Eldalil* (meaning guide - traditionally families were given names based on their most celebrated craft.) is my only truth and my only way of tracing my Bedouin and Palestinian ancestry.

Addressing identity and representation, I focus on co-creating alternative visual narratives of the contemporary Bedou’ identity in St. Catherine by inviting community members to add embroidery, poetry, commentary and sound onto the photo works. In addition to developing archive for the natural and cultural elements of the Bedou’ in collaboration with tribe elders. Through contributors’ commentary I also aim to highlight the social injustice and power struggle between the Beoduin community and authorities.

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