In the alleyways of a Lebanese refugee camp, two Palestinian journalists found love and celebrated it in the Shatila camp that brought them together. Rayan Sokkar and Samih Mazien Mahmoud’s story began five years ago when they met at work. Although their relationship was followed by uncertainties around their future in the camp and how to make ends meet, they remained steadfast until they were finally able to make things official years later.
Wanting to celebrate their engagement as any couple does, they decided to hold a photoshoot. In abandonment of the traditional settings of hotel lobbies and lush gardens, the couple wanted to document their raw reality in the same place that their love grew into fruition—Shatila refugee camp.
In a place that's so small, with such limited means, it's hard to think about how to make ends meet, how to build a future,” said Rayan Sokkar in an interview with Alaraby Television. “We're even thinking about how to make sure we have electricity and running water, so thinking of the future can be daunting.”
But despite the reality check of her words, and the harsh circumstances of the refugee camp she communicates, Rayan and Samih are every bit as whimsical, in love, and tongue-in-cheek as you would expect of a young journalist couple getting married.
The young couple have said that, as soon as Rayan shared the photos on social media, the internet cut out through the camp, as it often does. When she was reconnected a little later, she was shocked to see the photos were already going viral.
Rayan and Samih next to graffiti of lines from Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish that read: "And we have our small dreams/Like we wake up cured of disappointment/We do not dream of insurmountable things/We are alive, we survive, and we dream on."
“I want the world to know that we’re normal people. People are either overly sympathetic with us, and see us only as depressed and oppressed and in need of aid, or through a racist lens. I wanted to spread the message that we can still fall in love, get engaged, get married, have kids and live our lives in the camp,” she added.
Shot by their friend and photographer Omar Ahmad, the pictures follow them around the camp’s rooftops, abandoned cars, buses, and alleys. The result is both endearing and honest, making for a representation of life under political unrest that is far from detached.