National

Photographer's book details time spent with Syrian Bedouin family

Kyodo

A photojournalist who has visited the Bedouin people in Syria for the past 17 years has published a new photo book, titled “Arab.”

“Although the country is not materialistically rich, people’s lives were filled with the warmth of a family,” said Megumi Yoshitake, 49, a Tokyo native. “I want Syria to return to its old days.”

Yoshitake said she became interested in the desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group when she read a book about them and saw the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” when she was in junior high school.

“I was fascinated by the horizons extending all the way, the overwhelming nature and the beauty of the deserts,” she said.

Hoping to express such beauty, she studied at a photography school after graduating from high school and became a professional.

She visited Syria for the first time in 1987 and met Giro Orita, a Japanese veterinarian who introduced her to a Bedouin family living in the northeast of the country.

She visited the family every spring from 1995 to 2011, living with them in their tent for about 10 days each time.

During her visits, she took pictures of more than 150 people, including members of the family and their relatives lighting oil lamps, making cheese from sheep’s milk, baking bread and chatting over a cup of tea.

Her heart was moved by the vast landscape of sand, rocks and grass, with the sun rising above a far-away horizon, and the night sky full of stars.

At the same time, she was bewildered by their lifestyle, excreting everywhere in the open and having sand creep into their food.

On one occasion, she developed a high fever and moved to a hotel in a nearby city as she yearned to return to the comfort and safety of Japan. But while she was in the hotel, she changed her mind and returned to the tent and her adopted Bedouin family.

On another occasion, when she found lice had infested her hair, they told her she had become a member of the family.

She doesn’t know the family’s current whereabouts, as Islamic State militants have taken control over much of the country and U.S. forces are staging airstrikes.

But she strongly hopes to meet them again one day.

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