'Dream destination' cafes offer Palestinians a taste of paradise in Gaza

The cafes are named after popular travel destinations, including Dubai and Sharm El Sheikh

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Mediterranean waves crash below patrons snacking on freshly-caught fish at the Maldive Gaza Restaurant & Cafe, offering a glimpse of paradise to Palestinians confined to the blockaded strip.

The new three-storey restaurant, protruding 15 metres over the rocky shoreline, also features the tropical juice drinks typical of the distant Indian ocean island after which it is named.

Palestinians leave "Maldive Gaza" cafe on a beach in Gaza City August 5, 2020. Picture taken August 5, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Many of Gaza's two million Palestinians have never left the city, which is blockaded by Israel.

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The people of Gaza can't go to the Maldives, so we said to ourselves, 'Why don't we bring the Maldives to them?'

"The people of Gaza can't go to the Maldives, so we said to ourselves, 'Why don't we bring the Maldives to them?'" says Emad Al-Bayya, co-owner of the cafe, which seats 1,200 and which he hopes to expand.

It is one of several new seaside cafes bearing the names of dream travel destinations, Marbella, Dubai and Sharm El Sheikh among them.

They offer a brief window into a more exotic life to people "who have been subject to wars, pressures and blockades", says Rola Al-Agha, one of hundreds of patrons packed into Maldive Gaza on a pleasantly breezy evening last week.

Gaza has had no Covid-19 cases among the general public, and there are few curbs on social interactions.

Palestinians sit at a beachfront cafe in Gaza City August 5, 2020. Picture taken August 5, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

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