Thu, 02 Dec 2021

by Saud Abu Ramadan, Emad Drimly

GAZA, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- Many in the Gaza Strip, home of more than two million Palestinians, have heard the story of "al-Maldives" on Gaza city's seaside.

Through all seasons, the place was always busy and attractive to customers from all over the strip to enjoy the meals and the view overseeing the beach.

The wood-made restaurant comprises three floors divided into northern and southern halls. The entire building rises 15 meters above the rocky beach in western Gaza city.

With a stunning view, the restaurant was built on more than 10 steel columns fixed to the seabed and connected to each other in cement blocks, while the high floors, stairs, and walls are built of dark brown reinforced wood.

The customers, who sit by the windows and at the open balcony on the seaside, could enjoy watching the sunset in the nearby Gaza fishermen marina or the beach.

The place served tropical juices similar to those in Maldives, a country in the Indian Ocean. The restaurant was opened in August 2020, and quickly became the most popular beachfront in the besieged coastal enclave.

Ahmed al-Faseeh, director of personnel affairs, said that most of the Gaza Strip's populations had never been to Maldives and only saw pictures of the island country.

"The customers are drawn to the blue sea and the small wooden houses, so they always hope to see and watch such scenes in the Gaza Strip," al-Faseeh said.

But around six months ago, this place almost fell into ruins.

Al-Maldives was severely damaged in May when an Israeli war jet targeted the surrounding area of the restaurant with four missiles which also killed three passers-by.

The restaurant was not the only destroyed place during the Israeli aerial offensive on the Gaza Strip, which started on May 10 and ended on May 21 after Egypt brokered a cease-fire between the two sides.

Officials in the Hamas-run ministry of housing and public works in Gaza said that more than 1,800 construction units were completely destroyed by the Israeli air forces.

Naji Sarhan, undersecretary of the ministry, added that more than 37,000 others had been either badly or moderately damaged.

"In May, when the Israeli war jets struck the area, I was with a colleague in the building," said Mohammed Bakker, one of the employees working at the restaurant, adding that they escaped to the main street and saw one of the security guards of the restaurant killed.

The employee, who was slightly injured, said that the four Israeli missiles didn't only cause severe damage to the building of the restaurant, but also frightened the residents nearby, to whom the huge explosion sound has become a nightmare.

"The al-Maldives restaurant remained closed in the past months until we decided in October to rebuild it," he said, noting the reconstruction requires a lot of manpower and material resources.

"The restaurant made me famous in Gaza and I received daily support from our regular customers through social networking sites," he said.

Before the bombing, the restaurant had plans to extend the viewing platform into the sea. However, the damage caused by the Israeli airstrike had postponed the project.

Bakker said that the budget is still enough, but no one knows when the next conflict will occur or whether there will be another explosion that erases everything.

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