Universes in Universe

For an optimal view of our website, please rotate your tablet horizontally.

A People by the Sea

A People by the Sea. The Palestinian Museum

A People by the Sea: Narratives from the Palestinian Coast

29 September 2021 – 31 October 2022

The Palestinian Museum
Birzeit, Ramallah, Palestine

Guest curator: Inass Yassin
Assistant curator: Ahmad Alaqra
Historical Advisors: Professor Adel Manna, Professor Mahmoud Yazbek
Palestinian Museum Director General: Adila Laïdi-Hanieh, PhD.

Artists: Abed Abdi, Amir Nizar Zuabi, Bashar Khalaf, Dima Srouji, Essa Grayeb, Manar Zuabi, Nasser Soumi, Nour Abu Hashhash, Raed Duzdar, Shareef Sarhan, Sasha Khoury, Suzanne Groothuis, Yanko Todori Tadros.

Photos of the exhibition  

The Palestinian Museum's exhibition A People by the Sea: Narratives of the Palestinian Coast, presents a selection of visual, archival, interactive, and narrative historical material (18th century to the present) about the Palestinian people and their deep-rooted connection to their land and the sea. The exhibition also includes commissioned artistic interventions.

The exhibition draws upon three centuries of Palestinian coastal history to develop focused narratives of the rise of Akka (Acre) in the mid-18th century, the rise of Yaffa (Jaffa) in the 19th century, and the gradual concentration of capital and trade in Palestine’s coastal cities. It considers possible futures by reflecting on past experiences to illuminate a less familiar perspective on Palestinian modern history.

Exhibition sections:

Prior to the emergence of statehood in its modern conception, Palestine saw the formation of political entities that were quasi-independent from the Ottoman state. These entities played a significant role in guiding the construction of the urban centres that would become Palestine’s coastal cities.

The most significant effort at self-governance was led in the 17th century by Daher al-Omar al-Zaydani, who began his rise to power in Galilee. This occurred after his appointment by the Ottoman Governor of Sidon as a mültazim (tax farmer) in the villages of Damoun and Arrabat al-Battouf.

Daher al-Omar grasped the importance of the coast and made Akka (Acre) his capital in 1748. His rule lasted six decades, during which he consolidated his authority despite Ottoman rule. This authority had a significant impact on the formation and development of his power as well as on the policies concerning fellahin, Bedouins, and various religious groups in northern Palestine. His rule saw the construction of coastal towns and the restructuring of the country’s interior. This laid a solid foundation for cities’ prosperity and the creation of an economic powerhouse reliant upon agriculture and foreign trade, especially cotton.

The Rise of Akka

  • 1748 | Akka as capital
  • 1735–1777 | Daher al-Omar Rule
  • 1777–1804 | Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar appointed Wali of Akka
  • 1799 | Napoleon’s attempted invasion
  • 1805–1819 | Abu Nabbut becomes Governor of the Sanjak of Gaza and Jaffa
  • 1831–1840 | Egyptian campaign

The Tanzimat (Reforms) period (1839–1876) was a time of fundamental transformation across the regions governed by the Ottoman Empire. These included the adoption of statutes concerning, inter alia, legal equality among Ottoman citizens, general administration principles, and the emulation of European administrative and organisational models. For Palestine, the most impactful reforms were the Land Law of 1858, the Vilayet Law of 1864, and the declaration of the Ottoman Constitution in 1876, which led to a change in the structure of Palestinian society and its relation to the state. This was manifest in the empowerment of local political elites, linking local markets to the capitalist world economy, and the displacement of economic and political seats of power from the countryside to the city. Consequently, the state compelled local rulers to relinquish their independent authority and work instead as civil servants of the Ottoman state.


  • 1839–1872 | Rise of foreign ambitions
  • 1858 | Introduction of the Land Law
  • 1864 | Introduction of the Ottoman Vilayet Law
  • 1876 | Declaration of the Ottoman Constitution
  • 1877 | Election of the first Ottoman parliament
  • 1878 | Suspension of the Ottoman Constitution
  • 1908 | Restoration of the Ottoman Constitution

Between the mid-19th century and its fall in the 1948 Nakba, the implementation of the Ottoman Tanzimat (reforms) had a transformative impact that contributed to Jaffa’s rise as a prosperous socio-economic hub. In the wake of the Tanzimat, the country enjoyed a period of security. The process of land registration contributed to the rehabilitation of more lands, leading to a rapid rise in agricultural production. This was followed by successive waves of internal migration from Nablus, Jerusalem, and Hebron seeking work and investment opportunities in Jaffa, especially in the development of groves.

Jaffa also attracted migrants from Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. The city became a commercial hub with ties to European markets and acquired growing importance among Mediterranean cities. Organised Jewish settlement ultimately led to the laying of the foundation stone of Tel Aviv in 1909 at Jaffa’s northern edge.

Jaffa, Heart of the Mediterranean

  • 1872 | Jaffa is a part of the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem
  • 1882 | Start of organised Zionist immigration to Palestine
  • 1892 | Work commences on the Jaffa–Jerusalem railroad
  • 1900 | Establishment of the Hejaz Railway
  • 1904 | Emergence of the modern Palestinian press
  • 1914 | World War I
  • 1916 | Sykes-Picot Agreement

As a result of the 1916 secret Sykes-Picot Agreement (which allowed Britain and France’s fragmentation of the region), the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the 1918 end of World War I, the 1922 dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent ratification of the British Mandate on Palestine by the League of Nations; Britain began preparing favourable political, administrative, and economic conditions for the establishment of a "Jewish national homeland" in Palestine. This period saw a rise in mass Jewish immigration, an increase in Zionist land acquisition, and British support for the expansion of Tel-Aviv through land confiscations. Britain also supported the growth of Jewish Zionist investments at the expense of Palestinians, leading to Zionist control over major economic sectors. Despite the challenges, the Palestinian economy made significant strides, accompanied by a revival of social and cultural life. All of this was done while confronting British Mandate forces and Zionist settler groups.

British Mandate and the Nakba

  • 1917 | Balfour Declaration
  • 1919 | The First Palestinian Congress
  • 1922 | Ratification of British Mandate
  • 1925 | Establishment of the Palestine Arab Workers’ Society
  • 1929–1936 | Revolts and Strikes
  • 1939 | World War II

Palestinians were united in rejecting the 1947 United Nations Resolution 181 for the Partition of Palestine, which gave 54% of the country to Jews and left 45% of the land to its original inhabitants. This was done despite Palestinians constituting more than two-thirds of the population. It occurred as Britain was preparing to withdraw from Palestine. Palestinians’ unequivocal rejection of the fait accompli led to military resistance. However, it was curbed by the Zionist military "Plan Dalet" in March 1948, whose aim was to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from the future Jewish state. This campaign included a series of massacres, deportations, and demolitions, especially after Britain departed.

Zionist paramilitary groups already committed massacres as a prelude to the Nakba. An example of this was the bombing campaign of the Irgun and Lehi gangs in 1937. By mid-1947, Zionist paramilitary groups had conducted more than 7 massacres, killing more than 250 Palestinians and wounding thousands. November 1947 saw the announcement of the UN Partition Plan Resolution 181, which may be considered the official starting point of the Palestinian Nakba.

  • 1947 | United Nations Resolution 181
  • 1947–1956 | Systemic massacres and ethnic cleansing
  • 1948–1966 | Israeli military rule
  • 1948–1963 | Establishment of the All-Palestine Government
  • 1948–Present | Continuing Nakba

The exhibition is accompanied by dozens of events, lectures, performances, open days, artist talks and workshops, including:

  • The Museum’s third annual conference "Palestine: Producing Knowledge, Producing Futures."
  • An opening experimental live performance written by playwright Amer Hlehel, which offered peeks into the lived reality of Palestinians along the coast.
  • A staged reading of the play "Lanterns of the King of Galilee," adapted from the eponymous novel by Ibrahim Nasrallah.
  • An inaugural symposium "The Palestinian Coast in the Imaginary: Dialectics of History and the Novel."
  • A talk by historian Salman Abu Sitta in dialogue with Johnny Mansour, PhD entitled "Palestine in Two Thousand Years of Documentation."
  • Art and video workshops dealing with archives.
  • Several artists‘ talks with artists participating in the exhibition, such as Shareef Sarhan, Essa Grayeb, and Bashar Khalaf.

The Museum welcomed dozens of school groups’ visits from across the West Bank to the exhibition. Their visits included interactive tours and artistic activities.

Learn more about Upcoming Events & Activities

See also the Exhibition Guide (pdf)

Lenders and Contributors: Maha Abushusheh, George M. Al-Ama, Jonathan Cook, Raed Duzdar, Amjad Ghannam, A.S. Hanieh family, Amer Shomali and Yara Odeh.

Production and Curatorial: Obour Hashash, Exhibition Production Manager; Sandy Rishmawi, Assistant Curator; Lubna Al-Araj, Curatorial Production Assistant; Malak Abdelwahab, Researcher and Curatorial Assistant; Ashraf Hamdan, Researcher and Curatorial Assistant; Baha’ Jubeh, Museum Registrar.

Donors: A. M. Qattan Foundation through the "Visual Arts: A Flourishing Field" (VAFF) Project, funded by Sweden, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Bank of Palestine.

More in UiU:

Address, contact:

The Palestinian Museum
Museum Street
(Off Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Street)
PO Box 48, Birzeit, Palestine
Tel: +970 2 294 1948
Mob: +970 595 991102
Fax: +970 2 294 1936
Location on map

Website | Email

Connect with The Palestinian Museum:
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Press contact:
Haneen Saleh
Media and Marketing officer - Ramallah
T: +970 2 294 1948 - Ext: 242

From press information.
© Texts and Photos: The Palestinian Museum

Back to Top