Mediterranean waves crash below patrons snacking on freshly-caught fish at the “Maldive Gaza” cafe, offering a glimpse of paradise to Palestinians confined to the blockaded strip.
The new three-storey restaurant, protruding 15 metres over the rocky shoreline, also features the tropical juice drinks typical of the distant Indian ocean island after which it is named.
Many of Gaza’s 2 million Palestinians have never left the 360 sq km enclave, which Israel and Egypt have largely blockaded for years citing security concerns over its Islamist rulers Hamas.
Emad Al-Bayya, co-owner of the cafe, shared some insight on the project.
“The people of Gaza can’t go to the Maldives, so we said to ourselves: Why don’t we bring the Maldives to them?”
The cafe which seats 1 200 has since become a hit for locals, and Al-Bayya he hopes to expand.
It is one of several new seaside cafes bearing the names of dream travel destinations, Marbella, Dubai and Sharm el-Sheikh among them.
Rola Al-Agha, one of hundreds of patrons packed into “Maldive Gaza” on a pleasantly breezy evening last week, revealed the importance of the cafe.
“They offer a brief window onto a more exotic life to people “who have been subject to wars, pressures and blockades”, said Al-Agha,
Gaza has had no Covid-19 cases among the general public, and there are few curbs on social interactions.