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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Reuters notices Gaza has water parks too

I missed this story from Monday, where Reuters - just like Sky News - suddenly discovers that there seems to be a middle class in Gaza, that has money to spend.

The most astonishing thing about this story, by Nidal al-Mughrabi, is that is doesn't try to find a way to make this look like an Israeli crime.

This might be the reason why it is not easy to find any newspaper website that has published this article.
New leisure projects and restaurants have been springing up in the Gaza Strip, some partially funded by Hamas Islamists ruling a territory long seen as a symbol of Palestinian hardship.

The construction boom in recreational facilities has prompted some Palestinians in the enclave to complain that Hamas should have channeled such investment into rebuilding homes and infrastructure destroyed in conflict with Israel.

Some 800 visitors a day flock to Al-Bustan, a resort built by a Hamas-linked charity, to enjoy its swimming pools, restaurants and cafes.

In keeping with strict Muslim tradition, women are veiled and non-Islamic songs are not on the playlist of music blaring from loudspeakers.

"The atmosphere is Islamic. It's a place where you feel relaxed," said Umm Gaafar, wearing head-to-toe black garb and a veil.

It's a different scene at Crazy Water Park.

Secular music echoes across its three swimming pools and men and women smoke water pipes around tables placed under umbrellas made of palm branches.

With Gaza unemployment estimated by the United Nations at more than 40 percent [actually 34% - EoZ], and by local economists at 60 percent, most of the crowd at Crazy Water are relatively well-paid professionals and employees of foreign aid organizations.

Bissan City, a former garbage dump on land owned by the Hamas-run Interior Ministry, has been turned into a 46-acre (19 hectare) zoo, a large entertainment park for children and gardens.

Hamas has not disclosed the scope of its investment in numerous projects in the Gaza Strip and the government in the territory has not released a budget. Hamas receives money from some Islamic and Arab allies, especially Qatar and Iran.

At a recently inaugurated Gaza shopping mall, the enclave's first such project, stores are filled with clothing, shoes and other consumer goods. Supermarket shelves in the mall are packed with Egyptian and Israeli merchandise.
Of course, it would be too much to ask for Reuters to point out that Gazans, including the adults with their water pipes poolside at the water park, are the biggest per-capita recipients of humanitarian aid in the world.