The Other Side of Gaza is a writing program that provides our students with an opportunity to showcase their own personal view of Gaza.
Wars, occupation and a blockade have all assigned a bleak image of Gaza, stripping it of its historical glory as home to many people and empires.
As a beacon of survival, Gaza remains populated and pulsing, boasting historical sites, cultural hideaways and vibrant markets.
Students give fascinating and warming accounts of their favorite places and the things they do to create a form of normalcy while living under siege.
Abdallah El-Khoudary describes the best things a good restaurant can give you, and nowhere is better for him in Gaza than the Avenue restaurant. From the delicious scallopini and the wonderful waiters to the free internet and complimentary chocolate; the Avenue is a perfect retreat.
When we talk about countries' landmarks, we talk about historical, cultural, modern and technological landmarks, and as any city in the world; Gaza city has its own landmarks. One of the many restaurants and coffee shops, that adds to the identity of Gaza, is the avenue restaurant and coffee shop. This is the ideal restaurant to have my breakfast, lunch or simply grab a coffee with my friends. The restaurant was established after the war on Gaza, in the beginning of 2010, when its founders decided to start the project despite the siege. When I go to the restaurant I can sit inside the main hall listening to the soft music and having the best reservation in Gaza, or I can sit outside, looking directly to the Gaza sea; which is a truly beautiful view. The waiters there are always extremely pleased to help me with what I want and try to give me the comfort I need and to make me feel how much they care about me. The 'coffee moca' is the best hot drink to have there. It is served with a small piece of chocolate, but when I choose to have my lunch, then I order the Scaloppini with hot potatoes and cheese. In my opinion, the chef is fantastic! The restaurant also hosts the wedding parties in Gaza, as well as conferences, seminars and national days. Finally, the best bit for me is that the restaurant provides me with a high speed internet wireless connection for free! This is awesome when you feel you want just to stay there and look to the sea and get on with your work. I’m proud to be in my country, and to rise the Palestinian flag, and to give the real image of Gaza to the people who visit it. Gaza is not just the damage and the shelters we see in the media. Gaza is a city, like any city in the world, with its own landmarks and places, it just needs its freedom.
At the center of old Gaza, where the beauty of old houses tells stories of Palestinians, in the east of ‘Palestine Plaza’, there is a small shop, called the Al Haj Taym shop
By Dr Abdlarahim Jamal Alamahallawi
It’s easy to find; you just allow the sweet scent of namoora to guide you. You really can’t miss the incredible smell of cinnamon. I remember my first time at Taym. I looked around the shop carefully; the dark brown- woody walls saying how old the shop was. Cinema-goers heading towards the Al-Samer Cinema would frequent the shop, before heading to see a film. Al Haj Taym, a Palestinian man for Al-Majdal City is an old man, with many wrinkles on his face that portray dignity. He looks old, like an ancient city full of pride; a true Palestinian old soul. Me reminds me of my grandparents. When I asked him about his life, he looked at the wood roof of the shop as he spoke about it, and seemed to be asking it to help him trace his history. He was born in the 1920s, in Al-Majdal City. He opened a shop that specialized in traditional Arabic sweets like Namoora. Back in the day, he would make it in the morning and it would be completely sold out by the afternoon. They were wonderful days, he tells me. At 1948 Haj Tayem, and his three children at that time, were forced out of their land; the only land they knew, and the only land their forefathers had known. From Al-Majdal to Gaza, Haj Tayem travelled all that distance on his feet with his heart clenching in pain and his eyes drowning in tears. It was a nightmare. Out of nowhere, armed intruders had come in and taken ownership of Haj Tayem’s sweet shop and his house, and all of a sudden they became the owners of four million Palestinian homes. Haj Tayem decided he had to continue living. But he still dreams of his old house and the olive tree he planted just before the Nakba of 1948. For now he is selling Palestinian Namoora in Palestine Plaza in Gaza. Until he can return. The bitter taste that comes from the bad days without freedom, means that the sweet tastes of Haj Tayem’s shop is especially important and uplifting for Palestinians. I write this in gratitude to Haj Tayem.
Ashraf Jamal Alzaazin loves to wander through one of the main streets in Gaza, which runs through some of the most vibrant areas of Gaza, all the way to the shore, which is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
One of the main streets in Gaza is the well known Omar Almoukhtar Street which divides the city from the far east to the west where is the sea. This remarkable and familiar street which is known with its malls, shops, libraries, hotels, banks, parks …etc; attract people from every spot to come to the commercial shops and to enjoy the city sight.
For the comers to the city, the old buildings that have an Islamic design like the shops of gold and AlOmari mosque will be enjoyable. Also, in the city center, there is the stand of Alfinak bird that resembles the mortality of the Palestinians.
The comers of Omar Almoukhtar Street can see the wonderful trees that give the street an attractive view. Along the Street of Omar Almoukhtar to the west you can stop on the statue of the Unknown Soldier that represents and resembles the Palestinian sacrifices.
Also, if you move forward you can see The Legislative Council and next to it RashadAlshawa cultural center. At the end of Omar Almoukhtar Street, you can see the beach of the sea which is considered one of the most beautiful beaches worldwide.
Sports Clubs are one of the most favorite places for the young people in Gaza says Hossam Rojab. Also, they’re a place that they can express themselves, relieve their stress, and build healthy bodies.
One of the most important sport clubs in Gaza is Saa’d Sayel Sports Hall, which contains a number of different kinds of sports. The main field in this hall for football, a basketball court, volleyball court and handball court, as well as the tennis table court, and of course, a Gym. I play football and it’s my favorite sport. I attend football clubs two times a week, and I sometimes play with other teams and clubs.
First of all, I want to talk about the oldest and most prestigious mosque in Gaza, the Grand Omari Mosque. We have heard about it and seen it today and for centuries.
By Karoleen Abu Kawik
The origin of the Omari Mosque began as a temple which was converted into a church by Queen Helena. With the arrival of Islam, the place became an abandoned building and wasn’t important. Then it was restored and converted into a mosque called the Great Omari Mosque. Named after Omar Bin Al-Khtab; the Omari Mosque is the largest mosque in the Gaza Strip.
When you enter the mosque, you find a huge area of 1190 square meters of courtyard, that contains the old tribune and model of Jerusalem. I imagine what it would be like to be really inside Jerusalem and visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The open spaces and yards make the place so beautiful. If you pass this yard before entering the mosque, you find against the door of the mosque, a place for ablution. The mosque is supported by 38 magnificent marble columns which give the place a prestigious look.
Personally, I have special memories of this place because I remember being on a field trip with my friends, taking pictures and having a great time. I also remember when I went with my family to pray Taraweeh prayer in the Holy month of Ramadan there. Despite the limited times that I prayed in the Mosque, those prayers were, spiritually, some of the best. This is not like any mosque, it includes a lot of columns, and the roof is not flat; it’s domed. The walls are not painted and decorated with drawings and inscriptions in every corner like modern mosques, which is important.
For as long as history stretches back, one small area has been the crossroas between Asia, Africa and Europe. This is Gaza.
By Haya Dadah
Gaza is considered to be one of the most ancient and historical towns in the world. It is an Arab Canaanite town gifted with a location which has been targeted by invaders for many centuries. My city; Gaza has modern as well as the ancient civilization despite all the great conflicts and wars which Gaza land witnessed by days, especially the imposed siege and the last Gaza war.
The hotels are one of the most important places in Gaza because they are one of the aspects of development and are a proof of civilization. Al Deira Hotel is one of the most special hotels in Gaza. Al Deira is an architectural and artistic gem located on the sands of the Gaza coast. It was built with sun dried mud bricks, in a traditional style featuring graceful arches, vaulted and domed ceilings, hand crafted furniture and open interior spaces. Al Deira brings to mind a contemporary palace overlooking blue Mediterranean waters. I really like this place and it is very special to me.
Easily, because my friends and I usually meet them after finishing our exams. We meet to talk about our life, our situation in Gaza, and our ambitions of a better future. In addition to that , we love celebrating our special occasions, such as birthdays, graduation and weddings there. I remember that one day I with my friends preparing a birthday party for one of my university friends and we made it as a surprise.
When she entered the place a birthday song played and one of the waiters brought a cake with her name written on it. We sang to her and gave her gifts. That day was really a memorable one, we really had fun and enjoyed the party with the beach and sunset view.