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Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Current image of Gaza City looking west to the Mediterranean Sea
Perhaps outside of North/South pole, peak of Mt. Everest and
Heathrow airport, the next toughest place in the world for an architecture tourist to navigate is the Gaza Strip.

Positioned along the Mediterranean coast between Israel and Egypt, Gaza has a reasonably modern infrastructure and architecture despite its troubles, but a UN report as early as 1952 stated that the Gaza Strip was too small to support its population of 300,000, and now there are well over 1.7 million inhabitants.

Gaza City, the main city, is Egyptian in its look. Perhaps, a poor man’s Alexandria.  Gaza City’s roots go back 5,000 years, mainly because it has a small but functional port making it a trade hub over the ages.  In a nutshell, the architecture is utilitarian.  Yes, there are pockets of antiquity, but the search is hardly worth the bureaucratic agony of going through customs.  Because of its cross roads location and port, the ownership of the city has changed hands more times than a dollar bill.  Seemingly, every nation in the middle east—current or extinct—has ruled Gaza at one time or another.

Governed today by the Hamas, tourism is difficult to impossible.  Advance permission via Israeli or Egyptian embassies are required.  Main entry points with Israel and Egypt are closely monitored as both nations view the Hamas regime as terrorists.  Palestinian men between 18 and 40 are not allowed to exit.

Twenty-first century battles between the Hamas and Israel have devastated parts of the Gaza strip—mainly the Hamas strongholds. Israeli military easily monitors sites where Hamas rockets are fired into Israel.  Retaliation by the Israeli war machine targets the areas around the Hamas rocket launching areas.   Generally, neighborhoods avoiding catastrophic damage are those not used by Hamas as rocket launching sites, according to media reports.

Much of the Gaza strip, however, remains fairly untouched by war as images in this post show.

Click here for primer on how to gain entry and leave the Gaza Strip as a tourist.

Arcmed al-Mashta Hotel on the Mediterranean Sea was built in 2011.
Downtown street in Gaza City, August 2017
Al-Zawiya marketplace is in one of Gaza’s City’s ten neighborhoods.  It is one of the oldest markets in Gaza.
The port is strictly controlled by Israeli Navy; local fishermen can only go seven miles to sea for their catch

On a good day Gaza City’s only electric generating plant (top) produces enough power for eight hours

Gaza's size compared with San Francisco Bay Area
Seaview from the Al Deira hotel
By contrast with the image above, the Al-Shatee refugee camp sits along the coast on Gaza City’s southside, February 2018.

From The Guardian:

Gaza City in numbers

40 – rank of Gaza city in 2014 list of most densely populated cities worldwide. At the time, the population of Gaza City and surrounding area was estimated at 750,000.
360 – square kilometers covered by the Gaza Strip, about the size of Detroit.
80 – percentage of families in Gaza who receive some sort of aid.
44 – percentage official unemployment rate in Gaza; for those aged 15-29, the rate rises to 60%.
3 – number of hours of electricity generated by Gaza’s only working electricity plant at a severe low point this summer. For the last few years Gaza has averaged around at most eight hours a day of electricity.

History in 100 words
Gaza City, famed for its port, is more than 5,000 years old. Over centuries various empires between the Nile River and Middle East – Philistines, Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Alexander the Great, Romans, Byzantines, Moguls, Ottomans, among others – ruled Gaza, as Jean-Pierre Filiu documents in Gaza: A History. Gaza’s status as a key trading and transit place shaped its unique culinary traditions, melding flavors like hot pepper and dill. Today Gazan culture and society has expanded to incorporate the Palestinian refugees who fled to here during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

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