“Here I found love, peace, and beauty in everything around me,” says Faten Abu Bakr after living in Upper Egypt for one year.
Originally from Alexandria, Faten Abu Bakr, a 25-year-old visual storyteller, decided to move to the far south of Egypt due to her belief that there was more to this side of the country than poverty, vengeance, and ignorance, contrary to popular belief.
“I felt that this land has enough peace and love for the world to overflow.”
Together with Aswan-born, Qena-based documentary filmmaker Mahmoud Ahmad, popularly known as Mahmoud Hawary, their passion towards human stories, and their goal to change the stereotypical image portrayed in the media about Upper Egypt, they launched Humans of Upper Egypt in 2018. Hawary, 33, describes himself as a “Sa’idi man to the core.”
*Sa’idi is a man from Upper Egypt.
Scrolling through their platform, one can easily sense the feeling of belonging and the connection that the founders harbour towards the southern side of Egypt. From historical facts about architecture in Upper Egypt, and their customs and traditions, to occupations and crafts, as well as special events and celebrations, their photos and videos highlight another side of Upper Egypt, often neglected or hidden in the media.
“This is a whole society that has its own unique style of customs and traditions, folk arts of all kinds, crafts, and occupations ranging from land farming to foreign crafts, architecture, and sculpture. This is a society that is very rich in human resources, which, by the way, is highly educated and knowledgeable, as opposed to what is shared in various media,” explains Abu Bakr, in reference to their choice of content.
Both Hawary and Abu Bakr spoke out against Egyptian movies and drama series, which constantly restrict Upper Egypt to poverty, revenge, disease, and ignorance. They argued that Upper Egypt is a society like any other, with its strengths and weaknesses.
“It’s got culture and art, and it’s a very safe space to live in peace,” they added.
In their efforts to break these stereotypes, Abu Bakr and Hawary are creating a visual memory for the present and the future. Through Humans of Upper Egypt, they aim to document and create real memories that would live on even after they’re passing.
Mahmoud believes that pictures strongly contribute to society’s development, and therefore considers Humans of Upper Egypt a way to popularize values, culture, habits, and traditions of Upper Egypt’s society with photography and cinematography.
“I have spent years trying unsuccessfully to find peace between me and myself but now I have found it,” concludes Abu Bakr in her post about living for one year in the Upper Egyptian community.
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