On Gaza and Alexandria

By Philip Rizk

Alexandria is a museum of history. The city sprawls along the magnificent Mediterranean coast, the pace of its inhabitants coalesces with the slow ebb and flow of the sea’s waves.

Alexandria is slow, but never dull. The traffic moves and here a car, even a taxi may stop allowing for a pedestrian to cross the street in safety. Unlike the rush of Cairo, the big city that never sleeps, Alexandria has a dawn and dusk when shops close and open again.

Alexandria is much like the city of Gaza, only it is not. Gaza City also lies on the Mediterranean, not far from Alexandria. But there. another rhythm reigns. Maybe it is due to Alexandria’s bay that the waves don’t come crashing in, but in Gaza they do and so does life.

A phone call from my friend Hanna Sunday morning reminded me of the weight that reigns there. Life is heavy, another popular restaurant was bombed recently, electricity shortages prevail in the city, the tightening of supplies is felt in every dimension of life. A couple weeks ago Maha told me that gas shortages was causing their NGO employees to take taxis because they didn’t have petrol to run the NGO vehicles.

The tension is increasing and the social capacity to cope in Gaza is at a breaking point, like the waves that crash in ever harder in the summer months.

After a field assessment the NGO was not able to find the required items in the market to purchase for families in need, like blankets. This is a hell they are living. Alexandria echoes paradise.

At night happy couples line the boardwalk of the cornishe. Vendors sell ice cream, candy cane, popcorn and a variety of seeds. The Greek Club is lively with upbeat Greek tunes, they have run out of ouzo, as the imported Greek drink goes quickly once it is imported from the nearby island. Coffee shops line the beach front, often crowded with customers playing backgammon, chess, sipping tea and coffee or just looking on, reading the newspaper to catch up on the days global news.

Newspapers often don’t make it in, due to the closure. If they do, it’s the very few who can afford them, and even if they can, why waste your money reading all that surrounds you daily? Here, it is hard to even find a coffee shop to read in. The beautiful sunset, the waves are only a temporary distraction before being whirled back into reality of the news that makes up the papers you never read.

-Philip Rizk is an Egyptian-German who lived in Gaza from August 2005 till August 2007. Philip is pursuing graduate studies in Cairo and runs a blog: tabulagaza.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com; contact him at ibn.rizk@gmail.com

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