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Al-Zawiya in Gaza: Ramadan shopping destination for Palestinians

Despite the spread of modern shopping malls that provide buyers with convenience during shopping, the popular Al-Zawiya market in the center of Gaza City still maintains its splendor and historical status.

The market is considered a historical extension of the ancient “Caesarea” market, which dates back to the Mamluk era and is now known as the “Gold Market”.

At one of its main entrances is the Great Omari Mosque, the largest ancient mosque in Gaza City, with an area of ​​about 4,100 meters.

Historical references say that it was built on the ruins of a Roman temple.

The market is divided into a number of corners, each corner specialized in selling a specific type of food product and commodities, including “spices, meat and fish, vegetables and fruits, children’s toys, and food products”.

With the approaching month of Ramadan, the alleys of the market, in which the scent of natural aromatic herbs spread, are covered with the special decorations for receiving this month, from lanterns and luminous crescents.

It also resounds to the ears of wanderers in the market chants rejoicing the approach of Ramadan and voices of congratulations on the advent of this month among merchants and buyers.

Traders say in separate interviews with Anadolu Agency that this market is of great importance to the residents of the Strip, and a destination for buyers before the month of Ramadan, regardless of the development of large shops and modern appearances.

As with the rest of the economic sectors in Gaza, the shops of the corner market are affected by the complex crisis experienced by the population, as this was evident in the volume of people’s turnout to prepare for Ramadan.

This crisis combines, according to economists, “the repercussions of the Israeli blockade and the internal Palestinian division, the resulting rise in poverty and unemployment rates, the global rise in food prices, the rise in fuel and transportation prices, and finally the depreciation of the shekel against the US dollar”.

According to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, about one and a half million people in Gaza, who number two million and 300 thousand people, live in a state of poverty due to the tight Israeli restrictions imposed on the Strip since mid-2007.

Popular interest in Palestine

The Palestinian woman, Suha Radi, 28, tells Anadolu Agency that she used to go to the Zawiya market before Ramadan to buy basic commodities, accompanied by her family, since she was a child.

And she adds, “The market stores are organized according to the type of food commodities, and they have a variety that meets the needs of all buyers, in addition to their reasonable prices, unlike shops and malls”.

She stated that “its proximity to archaeological sites, such as the Omari Mosque and the Gold Market, gives shopping a special advantage, as you wander around these places, which make you feel the authenticity of the city”.

As for the Palestinian Muhammad al-Hilu (35 years), who sells pickles and has worked in the Zawiya market for more than 20 years, he says that the market is one of the most important popular markets in Gaza.

Al-Hilu complains to Anatolia, as he arranges different types of pickles in colored plastic boxes to offer them for sale, about the lack of turnout this year due to the economic crisis.

He points out that “pickles are among the most important foodstuffs and the most important components of the Ramadan table in Gaza, which the population buys in abundance”.

As for the fruit seller in the corner market for more than 58 years, Abdul Qadir Abu Shaaban (68 years old), he says that he “lived a long life in the market”.

He added to Anadolu Agency, “Despite the distress of the situation, the manifestations of joy in this historical market do not disappear, even if people do not accept the purchase of Ramadan requirements, as they derive joy and spirituality from its manifestations”.

He explains that the market movement is weak for this year, adding: “For 58 years, I have not lived worse than these days when citizens are experiencing a major economic crisis”.

He stated that the sellers were affected by the decline in the market movement, which was reflected in their economic conditions and the provision of Ramadan requirements for their families.

Manifestations of joy during Ramadan

Despite the difficult economic conditions, vendors showed signs of joy by this month by installing Ramadan decorations in the corners of the market to give some kind of joy to the children who are walking around with their families.

Palestinian citizen Muhammad Haboush (43 years), who has been selling Ramadan decorations in the corner for 7 years, says that the corner market always keeps pace with occasions and is covered with decorations, whether in Ramadan or holidays.

He added to Anadolu Agency, “Citizens are willing to buy bright lanterns and Ramadan decorations, despite their difficult economic situation”.

He attributed this turnout to “the residents’ desire to find any source of joy in their homes and for their children, that would take them out of the atmosphere of despair and frustration left by the Israeli wars and economic conditions”.

He also says that the residents of Gaza “live the atmosphere of Ramadan with all its details and spiritual atmosphere, so they transform their homes to suit this matter”.

During the past four years, the population’s interest in purchasing cheap Ramadan decorations has increased, and the citizen today is looking for diversifying and distinguishing these decorations, according to Habboush.

He added, “Because of the citizens’ lack of liquidity, we are forced to sell supplies and Ramadan decorations at losses that we incur, for two reasons. The first is to sell these goods and the second is not to incur more losses”.

Difficult conditions in Gaza

Regarding the economic situation in Gaza, economic analyst Samir Abu Mudallala, a lecturer at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, says, “The sector is going through difficult and exceptional circumstances as a result of the blockade imposed since 2006, which controls the movement of crossings, exports and imports, and the frequent military attacks that took place”.

He added to Anadolu Agency, “The continuous Israeli aggression has led to the destruction of a large part of the Palestinian economy in Gaza”.

He explained that the month of Ramadan this year passes in light of “very difficult economic conditions experienced by the residents of the Strip, in light of the unemployment rate reaching 47 percent, extreme poverty exceeding 53 percent, and the shutdown of dozens of factories, in conjunction with a decline in growth and the level of income”.

And he added, “Also, 70 percent of the population depends on the assistance provided, whether from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), or from Social Affairs, the Qatari grant, or the World Food Organization”.

And he indicated that these conditions would affect “the Ramadan food basket for many families who suffer from poverty, unemployment and deprivation, and who are unable to provide their basic requirements”.

Regarding the weak market movement, Abu Mudallala said that this movement depends mainly on “the payment of salaries to employees, whether in the private or public sector”.

And he added, “Part of these salaries usually goes to paying off the debts of previous employees and paying their financial obligations”.

The economic crisis did not stop there, but the citizens of Gaza were affected by the global rise in food and fuel prices.

Abu Mudallalah said about this: “The Russian-Ukrainian crisis led to an increase in the prices of grain and its derivatives, which affected the citizens of Gaza”.

He added, “The rise in global oil prices also led to an increase in transportation costs, and thus an escalation in commodity prices all over the world”.

In the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians are affected by the currencies of other countries, as the depreciation of the shekel led to a further deterioration in the economic conditions, according to Abu Mudallala.

He said about that: “The shekel decreased against the dollar, and all Gaza’s imports are in dollars, and this decline led to a further rise in prices in the local markets”.

This news is republished from Al-Watan, Qatar. Translated from Arabic into English by Blitz.

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