Saint Levant's Memories of Gaza

Saint Levant's Memories of Gaza

Jun 13, 2024

“Our biggest weapon is our family trees/ We didn’t choose to live this life overseas/ I hear the sound of bombs in my dreams,'' Saint Levant (Marwan Abdelhamid) raps on album opener, “On This Land,” his low voice calling out in pain and defiance.

Born in Jerusalem and raised in Gaza before his family was forced to flee to Jordan during the 2007 Battle of Gaza, Saint Levant's story is emblematic of the Palestinian people’s enduring struggle for dignity, self-determination and life itself. The son of a French-Algerian mother and Serbian-Palestinian father, his music moves fluidly between English, French and Arabic. That global perspective has allowed him to reach millions of fans around the world and made him a beacon of light for a generation of young people who have never known a free Palestine.

That light is infused throughout his debut album, DEIRA, which explores both love and loss and conjures scenes from the seaside Gaza City hotel his father designed and operated. On DEIRA, Abdelhamid offers the hotel as a symbol of return and safety, bringing the whole world to the everyday Gaza he knew so well, the Gaza where he went to school, played soccer with friends and spent evenings beside the sea. That long-beloved structure was destroyed by IDF bombs alongside “more than half of [Gaza’s] healthcare, education, and water facilities,” according to Harvard University's FXB Center for Health and Human Rights. While much media depicts this destruction and slaughter in grossly dehumanizing, impersonal terms, Abdelhamid’s music serves as a perennial reminder of the Gazan people’s enduring humanity and grace.

Abdelhamid dug through his childhood photos and family archives to give us a glimpse into his family’s history. While it’s hard to take in the sheer scale of destruction and bloodshed, these small windows into everyday life from his childhood in Gaza are a powerful lens to view the magnitude of what has been lost throughout this brutal period of violence, where more than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF. Abdelhamid’s memories serve as yet another reminder of the urgent need for an enduring ceasefire in Gaza and a liberated, free Palestine.

Journey through Saint Levant's memories of Gaza, below.

This photo was taken at the Deira Hotel, where we used to eat. The restaurants there overlooked the beach and this is where we spent most of our time.

This is a memory of the first game I ever played at a football club in Gaza with all the boys. I eventually went on to play football semi-professionally in Jordan.

Photography: Pedro Damasceno / courtesy of Saint Levant