Andrew McConnell

Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

Fatoumeh Al Sheikh Khalaf, 102, inside her family's shelter at a tented settlement in the Bekaa Valley. Back in her home village in Syria, Fatoumeh, 102, is a bit of a legend. Her husband had three wives. But she was the youngest and his favourite, family members say. Before the days of heavy machinery, she was the strongest person in the village, her son boasts, often beating men at various outside labours. Though women would taunt her, she rode camels and horses with the men, who could barely keep up. Those memories make Fatoumeh light up like a giddy schoolgirl. 'Men would only harvest one area and I could do four in the same amount of time!' she laughs, her black prayer beads bouncing on her swollen ankle. 'But look at me now.'
Fatoumeh arrived in Lebanon by bus in early 2013, fleeing northern Syria with her 66 year old son Mohammed, his wife and five children. She is ill, but does not know with what exactly. 'The sickness I have, the doctors can't cure,' she says. 'She was queen of the world,' says Mohammed. 'And now she's here without a throne.'Mohammed keeps all their family documents in a small black plastic trash-bag. He often brings out his deceased father’s identification card, letting Fatoumeh hold it in her hands. She kisses his picture whenever she sees it.
As the family sits around in heavy silence, broken only by the clink of tea glasses, Fatoumeh interjects excitedly, eager to tell one final story before she naps.
'I was once in a taxi in Aleppo with two young girls. They wouldn’t stop talking. One girl told the other how much she cooked that day. The other responded with how much she cleaned. They were both so impressed with themselves,' she says.
'And I didn’t turn around to say it, but I often wish I had interrupted them to say: 'Girls, I do that and more every single day.''

Object Name
Copyright
Andrew McConnell
City
Bekaa Valley
Country
Lebanon
Restrictions
Not available in Germany.
Max size
High Resolution
5000 x 4003 pixels
42.33 x 33.89 cm (300 dpi)
16.67 x 13.34 inch (300 dpi)
6.4 MB size on disk
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