Our Story

Since 1991, RIWAQ has recognized the challenging complexities of preserving Palestinian collective memory through projects that document and restore architectural heritage sites across the West Bank and Gaza.   Harnessing the energy and skills of students, architects, archaeologists, and historians, RIWAQ embarked on the Registry of Historic Buildings, a thirteen year project (1994-2007) resulting in the publication of three volumes that include detailed histories, maps, and photos of approximately 420 villages in sixteen districts across the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza.

 

Other projects have not been as vast in size, but boast a similarly powerful vision with equally lasting impacts. RIWAQ’s “Job Creation Through Conservation,” for example, has transformed cultural heritage into an important economic tool, and shifted the concept of architectural conservation from an activity exclusive to affluence, to one that provides skill-building opportunities for residents, and community economic development for neighborhoods, villages, and municipalities.

 

Utilizing data provided in RIWAQ’s Registry of Historic Buildings project, we have concluded that by protecting 50 villages, we will succeed in protecting nearly 50% of the historic buildings in Palestine, which encompasses 50,230 historic buildings. Consequently, RIWAQ has shifted its priorities and resources from the conservation of single historic buildings to a universal approach that engages entire communities. Through this work, we believe RIWAQ has succeeded in responding to the vital question of what it takes to rehabilitate an entire town, not only physically, but socially, culturally, and economically.

 

 

The Light Bulb

 

Over twenty years had separated the two phone calls: the 2013 phone call in which RIWAQ had been informed that it won the Prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and the 1991 phone call when the very first funder expressed interest in visiting RIWAQ. That day, I rushed out of our modest office space and went home to gather three chairs, a round kitchen table, and a light bulb to host our first official meeting. That memorable light bulb not only lit RIWAQ’s dimly lit meeting room on a dark November afternoon, but also lit the first step in a long and winding path of exploring, documenting, and protecting cultural heritage across Palestine; a challenging mission spearheaded by RIWAQ since its establishment.

 

Over twenty years later, RIWAQ’s staff, Board of Directors and friends gathered to celebrate the 2013 Aga Khan Award for Architecture,  acknowledging the organization’s hard work, tenacity, and enduring commitment to cultural and historic preservation across the region. Since 1991, we have become a dynamic team of talented people, with a growing community of partners, donors, and benefactors. Over the last two decades, RIWAQ has transformed the concept of cultural heritage as an economic, social, and environmental liability into one that is a valuable tool for economic and social change. Through skill-building opportunities and job creation, we continue to preserve Palestinian cultural heritage while bringing life back into our historic centers and providing infrastructure for social and economic development across the region.

 

Over twenty years separates RIWAQ’s first phase of documentation— which mobilized hundreds of architectural students and architects— from today’s 50 Villages Rehabilitation Project, which continues to mobilize entire communities. Since 1991, we have developed and grown our photo archives, GIS maps, and completed a national registry project, the first ever of its kind in Palestine. We have created lasting employment opportunities through the conservation of single buildings, and responded to the absence of a formal legal framework by creating protection plans and by-laws that safeguard our projects and communities. We have done so, all the while bringing architectural rehabilitation and cultural revitalization to neighborhoods and historic centers across Palestine. In addition, we take pride in RIWAQ’s numerous publications, Biennale, and Cultural and Heritage Routes.

 

RIWAQ’s team of dedicated employees, Board of Directors, friends, partners and funders are clearly an integral part of our history and are the pillars of RIWAQ’s accomplishments. Working with and for the larger community has further informed the organization’s mission and helped us to forge lasting partnerships with a diverse range of agencies and individuals. It is these relationships, coupled with the many stomach ulcers and bottomless cups of coffee for the sake of “community engagement,” that are the common thread in RIWAQ’s various stages of growth and development. For this, we are eminently grateful.

 

Suad Amiry

Founder, RIWAQ

 

RIWAQ Team
Aya Tahhan
Architect
Khaldun Bshara
Director
Khalil Rabah
Director of RIWAQ Biennale
Khulud Najjar
Site Engineer
Aya Tahhan
Architect

Aya received her architectural degree from Birzeit University in 2011, and worked at a design office for over a year before joining RIWAQ in 2012. Since then, she has worked on several design projects, as well as surveying and drafting maps of historic fabrics in different parts of the West Bank. She is interested in green and environmental architecture and in designing public spaces.

Khaldun Bshara
Director

A conservation architect and anthropologist, Khaldun is currently Director of RIWAQ where he has worked since 1994. He received his B.Sc. in architectural engineering from Birzeit University (1996) and his MA in Conservation of Historic Towns and Buildings from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium (2000). Interested in space and memory, Bshara graduated from the University of California Irvine with an MA in Anthropology in 2009 and a PhD in 2012.

Khalil Rabah
Director of RIWAQ Biennale

Khalil Rabah is the co-founder of al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem as well as RIWAQ’s Biennale. He is also the founder of the Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind. He is an active member of the curriculum committee of Home Workplace, a pioneering arts initiative in Lebanon launched by Ashkal Alwan. Rabah has participated in several biennials including Istanbul (2005), Liverpool (2008), Venice (2009) and Sharjah (2010). He has participated in countless group exhibitions, most recently at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Marseille (2012) and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo (2012). His solo exhibitions include Review, Beirut Art Center (2012), and Art Exhibition, Ready Made Representations, Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg (2012). Rabah is the director of RIWAQ’s first three biennale editions as well as its fifth (2014-2016).

Khulud Najjar
Site Engineer

Khulud attained a B.Sc. in architectural engineering from Birzeit University in 2009. She started her career in an architectural office in Hebron for 3 years. She joined RIWAQ in 2012 as a Site Engineer supervising conservation and rehabilitation projects in the south of the West Bank.

Lana Judeh
Project Coordinator
Michael al Far
Financial Manager
Michel Salameh
Project Coordinator
Mohammad Subhi
Office Support
Lana Judeh
Project Coordinator

Lana joined RIWAQ in 2007 and has worked on rehabilitation projects of historic centers in Palestinian villages, including Taybeh and ‘Abwein. She also worked on producing a manual for the rehabilitation of the old city of Ramallah. Lana earned a B.Sc. in architectural engineering from Birzeit University in 2007 and attained an MA in architecture, cultural Identity and globalisation from the University of Westminster in 2010. She is interested in researching topics related to cultural identity (gender, ethnicity, power and cultural representation) and their relation to the spatial practices in the built environment, as well as exploring spatial and socio-cultural mapping through different media.

Michael al Far
Financial Manager

Michael attained his bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2007 and his master’s degree in business administration in 2009 from Birzeit University. He joined RIWAQ’s team in 2007 and oversees all accounting operations of the center.

Michel Salameh
Project Coordinator

Michel has a B.Sc. in Architectural Engineering from Birzeit University (2005). He worked in private engineering offices and as a freelance interior designer. He has been working as an architect restorer at RIWAQ since 2008. He works on conservation and rehabilitation of historic buildings and historic centers of rural Palestine. In 2011 he joined the 17th International Course on Stone Conservation (SC11) that took place in Rome. He is currently responsible for coordinating and implementing the rehabilitation of villages under the program of the 50 Villages project, including Adh Dhahiriya and Yatta.  Michel is interested in building materials, quality control, and design details.

Mohammad Subhi
Office Support

Mohammad has been part of RIWAQ’s team since 1997. He oversees facilities management and provides technical support to staff. Muhammad joined RIWAQ to maintain building issues and is now responsible for all technical support issues as well as for coordinating RIWAQ’s event productions.

Renad Shqeirat
Project Coordinator
Ruba Salim
Project Coordinator
Samah Daraghmeh
Administrative Assistant
Shatha Safi
Project Coordinator
Renad Shqeirat
Project Coordinator

Renad attained her bachelor’s degree in architecture from Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago in 2006. After several years of working between Chicago and Palestine, she joined RIWAQ in 2008. In 2011, she completed her master’s degree in bio-climatic architecture from Polytechnic University of Madrid, Spain. Renad returned to RIWAQ in early 2012, and introduced the implementation of green concepts within RIWAQ’s conservation projects. Renad is interested in green architecture, and in providing RIWAQ with more environmentally green approaches to project design and implementation.

Ruba Salim
Project Coordinator

Ruba graduated from Birzeit University with a B.Sc. in architecture in 2001. She began her career as an interior designer, and then worked for a private engineering company in Ramallah. She joined the conservation unit at RIWAQ in 2005 as a Project Coordinator. During the last five years she supervised the implementation of several projects, namely the restoration of traditional buildings in different Palestinian villages in Ramallah, Nablus, and Hebron. She is interested in improving the quality control of design and the intricacy of architectural details.

Samah Daraghmeh
Administrative Assistant

Samah attained her bachelor’s degree in English education language from al Azhar University-Gaza in 1995. After graduating, she worked at the Arab Ban, and Birzeit University’s main library. She joined RIWAQ’s team in January 2009 as an Administrative Assistant.

Shatha Safi
Project Coordinator

Shatha is an architect currently leading rehabilitation projects in historic centers in Palestinian villages as part of RIWAQ’s 50 Historic Centers Project. Shatha joined RIWAQ in 2008 after she received a B.Sc. in architectural engineering from Birzeit University. Since then, she has taken part in different projects including the rehabilitation project of Beit Iksa, Hajjah and Birzeit. She is interested in cultural landscape and community involvement.

Suad Amiry
Founder of RIWAQ
Tariq Dar Nasser
Site Engineer
Yousef Taha
Architect
Suad Amiry
Founder of RIWAQ

A prominent architect, writer, and community leader, Suad Amiry is the founder of RIWAQ. She is the author of the prize-winning book Sharon and My Mother in Law (Feltrinelli 2003, Premio Viareggio, 2004). Amiry is the Vice President of Birzeit University’s Board of Trustees. She is a Board member for the Palestine Investment Fund, the Palestine Housing Council, and Jury for The Palestine Award for Culture (headed by the late Mahmoud Darwish). Amiry was an influential member of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace Talks in Washington (1991-1993).

 

In 2004, Amiry received the prestigious Viareggio Literary Award in the international writing category in recognition of her architectural work and her novel Sharon and My Mother in Law. Suad Amiry attained a BSc from AUB, an MSc in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, and a PhD in Architecture from the University of Edinburgh.  She has taught at Birzeit University and the University of Jordan. 

Tariq Dar Nasser
Site Engineer

Tariq received a B.Sc. in civil engineering from Birzeit University in 2011, and worked at a contracting company for a year before joining RIWAQ in 2012. Tariq is currently supervising conservation and rehabilitation projects in several villages in the West Bank.

Yousef Taha
Architect

Yousef graduated from Birzeit University with a B.Sc in 2009. He started his career in an architectural office in Ramallah. He joined RIWAQ in 2011 working on conservation and rehabilitation projects. He is currently working on the conservation of single building projects in different Palestinian villages.

The following individuals have contributed to RIWAQ’s success as an organization today and while they are not currently employed with the organization, have remained an integral part of the RIWAQ family:
Baha Al Jubeh
Farhat Muhawi
Harbi Daraghmeh
Iyad Issa
Baha Al Jubeh

Former Head of the Archiving Unit (2000– 2011)

Farhat Muhawi

Former Head of the Planning Unit (1997-2012)

Harbi Daraghmeh

Former Financial Manager (1995-2010)

Iyad Issa

Senior Planner and Projects Coordinator (2004-2014)

Muhannad Hadid
Nazmi Al Jubeh
Sahar Qawasmi
Shuruq Jaber
Muhannad Hadid

Architect and Former Head of Community Outreach Unit (2001-2006)

Nazmi Al Jubeh

Former Co–Director of RIWAQ (1994-2010)

Sahar Qawasmi

Architect and Cultural and Social Activity Coordinator (2002– 2005 | 2010– 2013)

Shuruq Jaber

Architect and Planner (2005– 2010)

Yara Sharif
Fida Touma
Yara Sharif

Senior Planner and Projects Coordinator (2002– 2005 | 2012– 2014)

Fida Touma

Co-Director (2011-2014)

Show Map
50 Historic Centers
Throne Villages
Historic Center Rehabilitation
Historic Building Conservation