Osama and Mahmoud are best friends. They have been working together, selling, and repairing bikes for over 35 years. Their little, and crowded shop in the Zawiyah Market in Gaza’s Old City teems with old and new bikes, and the air of true camaraderie.
Osama Shoubaki, 60, has a passion for fixing bikes. It has been his job for 35 years and counting. Though he majored in Religion and minored in Computer Science, he found in bikes a more sustainable career.
“I began fixing bikes when I was a child,” he told the Palestine Chronicle with a nostalgic smile. “I started by fixing my own bike, as we had few shops and no spare parts. It would take me hours to diagnose and fix the problem, but I always did.
Listening intently to the conversation is Mahmoud Kuhail, 69. He has inherited the bicycle business from his father and has been at it for nearly 50 years.
Unlike Osama, Mahmoud’s love affair with bicycles began as a rider, not a repairman. “I would ride my bike and race my friends all the way from Gaza to Rafah twice a week,” he told us. The two cities are located at the opposite ends of the Gaza Strip.
“Back in those days,” Mahmoud said, “owning a bike was like owning a Mercedes.” Osama nodded his head in agreement. They really seemed to agree on everything.
The two comrades then engage in a separate conversation, where they conclude that electric bikes might be more convenient but are far less healthy than ordinary bikes. They recommend ordinary bikes for regular use as “they help a person lose weight, allow functional muscles to operate regularity, sharpen one’s focus and improve eyesight.”
Many wars, a protracted siege, and untold hardship have been imposed on this place, mostly due to the Israeli occupation. However, the relationship between Osama and Mahmoud is stronger than time. They speak of riding bicycles as if they are still teenagers racing one another on Gaza’s dusty roads.
(All Photos: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)
– Mahmoud Ajjour is a Gaza-based photojournalist. He is the Palestine Chronicle’s correspondent in the Gaza Strip.