By: Amal El Masri
Bourj el-Barajneh

I sat on the rooftop for hours yesterday, from late afternoon to sunset, watching people moving around in their houses, beautiful girls wearing green pants or red scarves or gold impossible earrings coming out to take down the laundry or to lean their head on their hand and peoplewatch, or the young men (the shebab ) who come up on their roof to smoke argilieh or to train the pigeons that so many of them keep on thier roofs or to make s-s-s-s-s-s sounds at me, foriegn girl, listlessly sitting on the roof and it becomes cool before I know it and the evening prayer call sounds (Allahu Akbar! Allahu akbar!) and soon, this Palestinian flag that I had been watching in the distance becomes indistinguishable in the night and I realize that this camp that has been here for 50 years, that has evolved from tents to shacks to a slum, will be here long after I die and I wonder what will happen to the Palestinians who don’t have nice Canadian passports, who have no passports, only UNRWA identity cards and frustration at wanting to live rather than exist in this concrete disarray.

And they do. At parties, at wedding, I am overwhelmed by the noise, the energy, the clapping, shouting, drumming and the dancing, my god, the dancing. Your only excuse not to dance here is if you are too young or too old to walk. On the dance floor, women’s hips become electric, men are fearless, no pseudo-macho-i’m-too-rough-to-dance, and I realize that I will never be able to feel joy like these people.

They have lived through sieges, massacres, bombings, multiple deaths in the family, civil war, indignities unimaginable. They came through a lot to get to this party, and dammit, they’re going to have a good time.

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