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Stunning archive photos featuring intimate family moments from the Middle East show a side of the region often forgotten and ignored

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Stunning archive photos featuring intimate family moments from the Middle East show a side of the region often forgotten and ignored


  • The Middle East Archive Project is a crowd sourced digital photo archive showcasing intimate family photos from the region over the last 100 years.
  • The archive showcases life in countries such as Syria and Iraq, as well as Arab diaspora communities abroad in regions such as South America. 
  • The photographs tell rare personal perspectives from major historical events such as World War One, the Armenian genocide in the early 1900’s, and the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. 
  • It also offers a glimpse into what everyday life over the last 100 years has looked like in the Middle East, where people did regular things like got married, celebrated Christmas, and joined the Boy Scouts.
  • The founder of the project, Darah Ghanem, told Insider that she hopes the archive will help to show a side to the region that is often overlooked by the mainstream media. 
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories. 

The Middle East Archive project is a photo archive dedicated to showcasing an alternative historical narrative of a region that is infamously misunderstood. 

The archive currently exists in the form of a page on Instagram, where people across the region are encouraged to submit their own family photos, with captions detailing dates and the historical context of what the photos show from the perspective of the family member who submitted them.

Middle East Archive Project

Screenshot of the Middle East Archive project on Instagram.


Instagram/Middle East Archive Project



The page currently has around 90 posts, with the first uploaded just over a year ago, and has already garnered a great deal of support according to the project’s founder Darah Ghanem. 

Insider spoke to Ghanem, who started the project after realizing while growing up in the Middle East that her history was not readily availble in museums and text books, but hidden away inside suitcases in the form of family heirlooms and photo albums.

“I think family histories are important, especially for our region because for so long our history has been written for us and not by us,” she told Insider. 

The archive also provides a rare glimpse into what everyday life has looked like in the Middle East over the last 100 years, from the perspective of the people who lived there. 

They cite important historical events such as World War One, the devastating Armenian genocide in the early 1900’s, and the 1967 Arab-Israeli war— but through the lens of real life, where people still got married, celebrated Christmas, and joined the boy scouts. 

These are the stories that are largely absent from the current history of region, which Ghanem hopes to highlight and make accessible to people around the world through the archive.

The Scout Movement in Damascus in the 1970’s.

Middle East Photo Archive




Middle East Archive Project



Boys and girl scouts were taught how to light fires, make knots, build tents, and survive out in the wild. The photo above shows The Syrian Boy Scouts having their photo taken on a field trip in Tunisia.

This photograph was originally owned by the boy on the left, who was also a budding photographer aged just 14. He owned all types of different cameras and documented his life.

Middle East Archive Project

Boy scouts in Syria in 1976-1977 Damascus, Syria.


Middle East Archive Project



Here he is pictured again with his best friend Ibrahim during a rehearsal at the school music club in 1976 in Damascus, Syria. He played the trumpet.

Middle East Archive Project




Middle East Archive Project



Graduating from the American University of Beirut (AUB) in 1951, this young female nurse moved to Lebanon from Syria to study. Her brother was also a nurse—the first male nurse at AUB.

Middle East Archive Project




Middle East Archive Project



Students at the Lebanese Evangelical School for Girls in Beirut prior to the Six-Day War in 1967 that separated the owner of this photograph from her school friends. Her father was worried for the family and they migrated to Sydney in 1969.

Middle East Archive Project




Middle East Archive Project



A man and his niece. He took her to visit him where he was studying at the University of Aleppo in Syria around 1968.

Middle East Archive Project




Middle East Archive Project



A Palestinian family celebrating Christmas in 1936. The photograph was taken by Karimeh Abbud, one of the first female photographers in the Arab World.

You may recognize the woman at the front of this photograph as Queen Elizabeth, and you would be right. The image originally belonged to Ziada Satti, who is pictured here and headed the security for the English monarch during a visit to Sudan.

Middle East Archive Project




Middle East Archive Project



Thomas and his friends taking a stroll in Beirut, Lebanon in 1960. He migrated to Los Angeles a few years after this photograph was taken.

Middle East Archive Project

Friends taking a stroll in Beirut, Lebanon in 1960.


Middle East Archive Project



This photo was captured on a day-trip to the Jordan Valley in 1966. The owner of the photograph, whose great grandfather is the man on the left said he was a farmer, shepherd, and textile merchant—”A true renaissance Bedouin.”

Middle East Archive Project




Middle East Archive Project



The archive also houses a good collection of wedding photographs from different locations and time periods. They give a good indication of styles of the time and different marriage traditions.

Middle East Archive Project

A wedding photo from Cairo in the 1920’s.


Middle East Archive Project



A wedding in the 1920’s in Cairo. The groom holds his new wife’s gloves as they pose for a photograph.

The woman on the right was a dedicated and creative seamstress, pictured alongside her husband in the 1960’s in Tlkarem in Palestine.

Middle East Archive Project




Middle East Archive Project



A family photo taken in front of the Ghazala fountain in 1956 in Tripoli during Eid. The fountain, created by Italian sculptor Vanetti, was a major landmark during the Italian occupation of Libya. The fountain, which depicted unclothed women embracing a wild deer in the dessert, remained unquestioned during the Gaddafi era. According to the owner of the photograph it was repeatedly destroyed following the Arab Spring in 2011, covered up, and disappeared one day in 2014.

Middle East Archive Project




Middle East Archive Project



Ghanem hopes that in the future she can expand the platform outside of Instagram, and publish a photo book with the images.

Middle East Archive Project




Middle East Archive Project



The hope is that researchers from inside and outside of the region can have access to the photographs, and more nuanced narratives of the region.

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