Getting pumped and pampered in hard-times Gaza

Thu Jul 28, 2016 7:09am EDT
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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Sparkling Mediterranean beaches, expensive restaurants and state-of-the-art health clubs do not readily spring to mind when it comes to the Gaza Strip.

But with their borders tightly restricted by Israel and Egypt, Palestinians in an enclave known for economic hardship and war have no choice but to find some respite close to home.

Some leisure spots may be out of the financial reach of many of Gaza's 1.9 million inhabitants, especially with unemployment at 42 percent. But the sea is free and thousands pack sandy beaches daily to escape the withering summer heat, erecting tents and preparing barbecues.

"We are fed up and this is the only place to entertain ourselves. Other places require money," Ibrahim Shweideh, 26, who is unemployed.

For a Reuters photo essay, click:

In the evening, cafes are filled with men, many of them jobless, playing cards and drinking coffee and tea.

Those who can afford monthly membership fees ranging between 100 and 150 shekels ($25 to $40) can join a growing number of gyms and health clubs.

Body-building coach Hussam Hammada, who works at the Super Gym center, has noticed an uptick in customers since the 2014 war between Israel and Palestinian militants led by Hamas, Gaza's ruling Islamist group.   Continued...

A Palestinian man relaxes after having his body lathered with soap at As-Samra bath house in Gaza City July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem