Last week I had a very different and exciting trip. I went to Lebanon, to visit a refugee camp and live there for some days. This was not a part of The Jirafa Project, but of another project by the organization Fantasiforbundet. This project also is about writing and editing a book, but about a slightly different theme than conflict and resolution: The birth of larp (live action roleplay) in Arabic countries.

DSC01712-e1415704135255 My travel companions Ane and Hilda eating breakfast in the sun.

Fantasiforbundet is an organization that works with larp. Maybe you have seen it in American movies, depicted by a bunch of people dressing up in medieval costumes, running around in the woods fighting with swords. That’s absolutely a form of larp, but there are a lot of other forms as well. In CISV the closest we come to larping are the simulation games we do in camps. Different kinds of roleplaying can be used to teach skills and knowledge in a way where you get to experience what you are learning, and are used by many organizations and schools. Some years ago Fantasiforbundet started a project with an organization in Palestine, and the first arabic larp was made. Later they cooperated together with the organization Al Jalil in Rashidieh, the refugee camp we were going to, and this summer people from Fantasiforbundet, Palestine, Rashidieh and Bifrost, another larp organization from Denmark, met outside of Bergen, Norway to learn how to make fun larps for children. These projects are going to be documented in Ane and Hilda’s book, together with new things we did while we were in the refugee camp.

I also was one of the attendants of the larp summer camp outside of Bergen, and I looked very much forward to see my friends from the camp again.

DSC01686 View from a café in Sidon.

As most CISVers I love travelling, and as a Norwegian, I’m used to being able to travel where I want, only by showing my passport and obtaining the occasional visa. However, this is the first time I’ve travelled to a country with military check points all over the place. The morning after we arrived to Beirut, our contact person, Najat, came and picked us up at the hotel to drive us to the refugee camp, but on the way we had to stop in Sidon to apply for the permission to enter. That turned out to be harder than expected. For some reason or another we were told that it was impossible to get the entry permit for the camp until almost a week later. Then we would already be on our way back, so that would be a catastrophe for our project. Luckily, Najat were able to help us, and we ended up with having to wait for only two days.

Getting into the refugee camp was also kind of an experience. Rashidieh has only one gate where you can enter and leave. It’s guarded by armed military, and when we wanted to enter, we had to give them our passports and wait for some time, while they looked up our entry number. Luckily we got in without problems. As this is the first time I’ve been in Rashidieh, or any other refugee camp for that matter, and I was very surprised at how little it actually felt like being in a camp. It was more like a small town, with shops, mosques, cafés, and a lot of cars and people in the streets. People were really welcoming, and when we went around the camp with Hussein, one of our friends from Al Jalil, it was almost impossible to go anywhere without people inviting us on coffee, tea or some snacks.

Rashidieh is situated by the beach, south of the city of Tyre (Sur), and it’s surrounded by green fields where the inhabitants can grow vegetables and keep animals. It was built already in 1936 by the French government to house Armenian refugees, as Lebanon was under French leadership until 1943. In 1963 UNRWA expanded the camp to accommodate Palestinian refugees, and most of the inhabitants have lived there for their whole life.

Here are some pictures from our walks around the camp:

IMG_4421From the fields on the north side of the camp.

 

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IMG_4458 In the new part of the camp there were many narrow streets like this one, going in a straight line almost to the beach.

 

IMG_4446 There were a lot of cute but skinny cats around.

 

IMG_4501 From the old part of the camp.

 

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IMG_5120 Picture taken by Ane Marie Anderson.

 

IMG_4579 Some of the fields that belong to the camp. The picture is taken from the rooftop of my friends house.

 

IMG_4568 Tyre (Sur) in the north. Picture taken from the same rooftop. (All the pictures are taken by Sigrid Elena Hauge if not credited to someone else.)