Khazaaen archives letters, photographs and other memorabilia from Jerusalem


Courtesy of Khazaaen

Blog Post

Khazaaen Archive Celebrates Its Five-Year Anniversary

On Saturday, October 30, 2021, Khazaaen celebrated its five-year anniversary at its location in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. 

Khazaaen, which literally means “lockers” in Arabic, could more precisely be translated as “treasuries.” This is in reference to ancient Arab libraries that knew the value of amassing valuable forms of knowledge. Knowledge, in this respect, pertains to preserving details of daily life in Palestine from different time periods.

The founder of the project, Fady Asleh, an archivist and doctoral student in history, had come up with the initiative with the support of talented Palestinian volunteers. The process began with the collection of ephemera (collectible memorabilia, typically written or printed), as a means to document the local daily life for the next generations.

Today, five years after the launch of the project in October 2016, Khazaaen has become a societal archive documenting, organizing, and preserving Arab heritage and culture. With plenty of individuals who are just as fascinated by the personal and collective history of the region, the project has rapidly expanded to several other countries, including Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Algeria, Qatar, and others. The entity itself is in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, but the digital archive ( is available and accessible for the public.


A collective effort to establish a societal archive that documents the daily life of the Arab world, using materials often overlooked by libraries.

Poster celebrating the five-year anniversary of Khazaaen digital archives

Poster about the five-year anniversary celebration at Khazaaen Archives


Courtesy of Khazaaen

Guests celebrate the five-year anniversary of Khazaaen digital archive

The five-year anniversary celebration event at the offices of Khazaaen Archive in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, October 22, 2021


Yacoub Ibrahim, courtesy of Khazaaen

The project has rapidly expanded to several other countries in the region.

Today, there are close to 6,000 items in Khazaaen’s digital platform. Meanwhile, there are more than 140 ephemera dating back from the year 1850 to the present moment. Artists, researchers, historians, and residents at large are now able to access treasures of handwritten documents, photographs, posters, and all types of props from different eras—all assembled in one place. The Khazaaen website has had more than 120,000 visits so far, with tens of thousands of followers on their social media pages.

The Preservation of Memory

Since the start of the project, Khazaaen has received an unprecedented list of documents, shared by various individuals from different Arab countries. Some persons shared their items as a way to support the collective endeavor, but others decided to share their precious ephemera at Khazaaen in order to preserve them in a safe place for years to come. In this way, these items are protected on behalf of the individuals themselves, and at the same time, they assist the wider community to piece together the puzzle of their own shared history. These personal memorabilia tell stories of displacement and destruction but also of celebrating daily life.

School certificate for Jamal Huseini from St. George's School in Jerusalem

A leaving certificate for a student named Jamal Huseini, issued by the St. George's School in Jerusalem on June 26, 1942


Courtesy of Khazaaen

Perhaps most important about this project are the “treasuries” themselves. The way that the now-director of Khazaaen, Hatem Tahhan, describes it: “Any individual who has historical material can get to have their own personal locker, which would be well-protected, stored in their name, and properly maintained for decades to come.” Khazaaen basically collects otherwise fragmented ephemera (from the private space) and stores it into well-organized and preserved lockers (shared in the public domain). In this way, it creates a community archive and makes it possible for future generations to trace their ancestral history, all the while aspiring to keep the collective memory alive.

A card printed by the Sahhar Bookshop in Arab (pre-1967) Jerusalem, with a sketch by the famous Jerusalem artist Kamal Boullata


Courtesy of Khazaaen

The Little Details of Daily Life

The preservation of history is not an easy task. Many official documents pertaining to Arab history had gone missing throughout the various periods and wars, and this has had repercussions on political affairs. However, the organizers of Khazaaen were not solely interested in official or governmental documents. They were rather intrigued by the social details of daily life—the everyday.

Such details, it turns out, are often found in what some might deem trivial or irrelevant. Personal collectible memorabilia, such as receipts, film and music tickets, wedding invitations, and business cards, are valuable props, since they contain historic knowledge. One can imagine how those and other items such as certificates, letters, polls, and maps could inform our own generation and future generations about regional transformations. They provide so much visual input about societal trends and realities such as modes of travel and transportation, marketing fonts and styles, cultural performances, industrial changes, and geopolitical disruptions. Details such as those found in newspapers, magazines, posters, photographs, and personal papers such as bills, business cards, and theater programs can tell countless stories about the places and the people who lived in them. If lost and not properly archived, there is a strong chance that these facts about people, events, places, and information will most probably be perished, never to be retrieved.

Having access to these collections is also great for the imagination. It is one thing to read about certain social, cultural, and political events, but it is a whole new ball game when one gets the chance to see tickets, photographs, stamps, and handwritten articles from those times. Among the collected items shared at Khazaaen’s digital archive are such gems as family photos of individuals taken in front of what used to be the Jerusalem International Airport (at Qalandiya) and tickets for the concert of Fairuz, the musical icon of Lebanon, who performed in Jerusalem back in 1964.

Bio Kamal Boullata

A renowned Jerusalemite artist and art historian who was exiled in 1967 and spent the rest of his life creating art that would convey, and lead him back to, the city of his birth

Filastin newspaper article about singer Fairuz's tour to Palestine during the Pope’s visit to the country, 1964

An article about an upcoming tour of Fairuz to Palestine to sing religious hymns in Jerusalem and Bethlehem during the Pope’s visit to the country. From the newspaper Filastin (Palestine), January 1, 1964


Courtesy of Khazaaen

A photo from the Faqousa family archive taken in front of Qalandiya International Airport in Jerusalem

A photo from the Faqousa family archive, in front of the Qalandiya International Airport in Jerusalem


Courtesy of Khazaaen

Video Five Minutes from Home

Jerusalem International Airport, once a gateway for an open region to the world, offers a study in sharp contrasts to the area’s present closure regime.

A Gold Mine for the Present and for Future Generations

One can imagine that a person in the far future will pick up a locker (whether online or in person) and trace back the images, documents, and papers that their ancestors may have lived through today. Those are not disconnected pieces of information but rather living documents based on physical evidence.

As described in the Khazaaen website, such documents not only serve as “real-life evidences of places that no longer exist,” but they may be the “sole witness on an important era of our collective history.”

Postcard of Jerusalem family from Khazaaen digital archives
Back of Jerusalem postcard, with map and "from Palestine" from Khazaaen digital archives

A postcard of the Jerusalem family of Shukri Al Jamal and his relatives, by Tarek Bakri


Courtesy of Khazaaen

The Khazaaen archive is available to the public physically and online on the organization’s website. The digital space makes it simple for individuals worldwide to trace valuable knowledge and go on a journey across different countries, times, and eras. In the long term, this archive will develop into a database and contribute to libraries and scientific research in the Arab world.

In the meantime, for those uncertain about what to do with their family archives and personal effects, Khazaaen is a great option to consider.