'Blue Beach' offers Gazans a glimpse of the good life
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - A luxurious new tourist resort has opened in the Gaza Strip, its manicured lawns, sparkling pool and private beach in stark contrast to the impoverished territory still struggling to recover from last year's war.
The Blue Beach Resort, made up of 162 chalet-style rooms set among palm trees and overlooking the Mediterranean, hopes to become the "most significant tourist attraction and entertainment venue in Gaza", according to its website.
Built by the Palestine Real Estate Investment Company, the hotel was set for completion last summer, just before the outbreak of a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that has controlled the territory since 2007.
A year on, the resort is finally opening for business, although only 76 of the rooms are available. Already demand is high, with eager weekenders prepared to pay between $100 and $160 a night to escape Gaza's privations.
At night, in contrast to the power cuts that afflict much of the enclave, the resort's lights can be seen glittering around the swimming pool, the terrace and down to the 750-metre private beach, where the surf rolls in gently.
The hotel's Facebook page has already received 19,000 'Likes' and secured 4.7 out of 5 stars from 230 reviewers.
The Trip Advisor website is slightly less upbeat, however, featuring a red banner above a picture of the swimming pool reading "TRAVEL ALERT: SAFETY AND SECURITY CONCERNS".