Skip to main content

Syrian refugee artists in Jordan add color to the desert

Syrian artists who found refuge in Jordan are painting the container homes at the Zaatari camp in the hope of lifting the spirits of camp residents.
Read in 

At the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, Syrian artists are using their paintbrushes to break up the monotony of the desert. They splash the container houses of Syrian refugees with flowers and trees that the desert climate does not support, with the hope of alleviating a little of the pain of the 80,000 refugees in the camp. Located some 53 miles northeast of Amman in Mafraq, Zaatari accommodates around 10% of the Syrian refugees in the country. There are 656,913 Syrian refugees officially registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Jordan. Jordanian authorities established the Zaatari camp on 8,500 dunams in July 2012 to shelter Syrians fleeing the civil war that broke out in 2011.

Muhammad Jokhadar, an artist who escaped Homs for Jordan in 2013, works as a barber at the camp, but that hasn't stopped him from pursuing his painting. In mid-2016, he formed the Jasmine Necklace, a group of artists in Zaatari. The members of the group decided to try to counter the solitary, monotonous feel of the desert and came up with a volunteer initiative to paint the accommodations and other buildings in the camp with trees and other natural, colorful scenery. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) liked the idea, and to promote it, paid the painters’ monthly salaries of $300 and provided the necessary equipment.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.