Saturday, April 27 2019, might have been the perfect start for a delayed – yet much welcomed – Palestinian Spring. “Ahla wu Sahla to Al Saha” one of the women displaying her handmade jewelry welcomed us with a warm smile to Al Saha at Kufor Aqab’s old – but newly renovated – old city. What is al Saha? “Al Saha” (Arabic for arena or space) is an initiative to revive, for a temporary period of time, the social community spaces that we’re losing.” That was the aim of this event that was launched by MECA partner Dalia Association, in cooperation with Riwaq and Kufor Aqab municipality.
Riwaq, another MECA partner and a center for the preservation of architectural heritage in Palestine, took Kufor Aqab’s Old City as one of its projects to renovate and bring to life as they’ve done with several places across the West Bank. The space they’ve renovated created the opportunity to host “Al Saha” event as part of Dalia Association’s efforts in mobilizing and utilizing local resources to empower the Palestinian community and help it sustain its own development instead of relying on external resources.
For three years, this event brought together people from different backgrounds and different parts across Palestine and helped connect people together. The event had different activities, amongst them; cultural performances, lots of seasonal homemade food, an alternative market, storytelling, and folkloric singing.
This event is also important to reclaim the somewhat lost and distorted identity and images of certain Palestinian cities, Kufor Aqab fell victim to such distortion. If you ask people nowadays, what’s the first thing that pops up to your head when you hear the word Kufor Aqab? The answers will vary between it being too crowded with people and buildings, out of order and chaotic, filled with pollution and noise, lots of traffic, and poor infrastructure. It was even described as “the route to hell” since Kufor Aqab is the mediator between Ramallah, al Ram, and Jerusalem and the place you need to pass before you reach Qalandia checkpoint.
In a nutshell, it’s difficult to maintain a positive image of the place since it’s connected to traffic rage, ugly soulless buildings, and weekly military raids to the town or the refugees camps close by; that’s where an event like “Al Saha” comes in. Who in all of this chaos, would have the time, energy, or desire to visit Kufor Aqab’s old city?
The old city is still within the boundaries of the town of Kufor Aqab but at the same time it is far away from all the havoc associated with it. Through the help of Riwaq, the Old City was able to maintain its ancient frontier while making it more habitual and user friendly. The ancient stones of the old city no longer were abandoned, with “Al Saha” they were surrounded with locals and internationals and children were enjoying the storytelling and the folkloric songs trying to imitate the grownups debka moves. Not to mention the delicious aroma of the homemade food that was all over the cozy space of the old city.
“Al Saha” was an opportunity to revive an abandoned space, and a beautiful reminder on a warm spring day, of the importance of investing in our communities and people. Because the end result, was a day full of life and color, and it was our pleasure to be have been part of it.