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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in gaza
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Middle East : Gaza
The Gaza Strip is a narrow, 40-km long slice of land between the Merranean to the west and the Negev desert to the east. Egypt lies to the south, the north and east border Israel. The urbal sprawl of Gaza City, mostly stretching along and around the 3-km long Omar al-Mukhtar Street, covers much of the north. The other main towns of Khan Yunis and Rafah are near the southern border. The Jewish settlements of Gush Erez in the northernmost tip, Netzarim in the middle and Gush Katif on the southern coast have the best agricultural land, but most of the land outside the cities is still farmed and Gazan produce like melons and papayas are exported worldwide. The export stuff tends to come from the settlements though, as you can't grow melons in a desert without government subsidies, and getting around EU bans on importing from the Occupied Territories requires a bit of governmental collusion.
Gaza isn't quite the pure hellhole you might expect given TV coverage, although needless to say the birthplace of the Intifada and one of the most overpopulated bits on the entire planet isn't exactly paradise on earth either. A UN report in 1952 stated that the Strip is too small to support its population of 300,000; there are now well over one million inhabitants and the January 2002|latest figures from the Palestinian Authority put unemployment at a whopping 79%. Most inhabitants are Palestinian refugees who fled the 1948 war but were denied entry into Egypt proper.
A bit of terminology disentanglement: Gaza Strip refers to the entire 40-by-6 kilometer patch of territory, much of which has been swallowed up by Jewish settlements. Gaza City refers to the town itself, in the northern part of the strip, but due to huge population growth the City now sprawls into many of the surrounding villages and it's a tough task to say what is a part of the City and what isn't. Both city and strip are pretty much interchangably referred to as Gaza and this guide will follow suit.
Map of Gaza Strip
Gaza has been around for a while: the earliest known reference is an inscription in the Temple of Amun at Karnak, Egypt, dated 1500 BC, which states that the town of Gaza is 'flourishing'. And for a long time it did: a staging post on trade routes connecting Asia and Persia with Arabia, Egypt and Africa, even the name means "treasure" in Arabic. Alexander the Great laid siege to the town in 332 BC, executing 10,000 defenders after being held off for two months. Up next, the town was held by the Romans, the Crusaders, the Mamluks, the Ottomans and briefly even by the French in 1799, when Napoleon Bonaparte set up camp on his way to defeat in Egypt. The Turks took it back, then lost it to the British in World War I. The Egyptian army grabbed it during the 1948 war that led to Israel's independence, opening camps for Palestinian refugees -- and the current situation began when Israel occupied the Strip in 1967.
The Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (the DOP), signed in Washington on 13 September 1993, provided for a transitional period not exceeding five years of Palestinian interim self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Under the DOP, Israel agreed to transfer certain powers and responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority, which includes the Palestinian Legislative Council elected in January 1996, as part of the interim self-governing arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A transfer of powers and responsibilities for the Gaza Strip and Jericho took place pursuant to the Israel-PLO 4 May 1994 Cairo Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area and in additional areas of the West Bank pursuant to the Israel-PLO 28 September 1995 Interim Agreement, the Israel-PLO 15 January 1997 Protocol Concerning Redeployment in Hebron, the Israel-PLO 23 October 1998 Wye River Memorandum, and the 4 September 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement. The DOP provides that Israel will retain responsibility during the transitional period for external security and for internal security and public order of settlements and Israeli citizens. Direct negotiations to determine the permanent status of Gaza and West Bank had begun in September 1999 after a three-year hiatus, but have been derailed by a second intifadah that broke out in September 2000. The resulting widespread violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel's military response, and instability within the Palestinian Authority continue to undermine progress toward a permanent agreement.
According to the unilateral Disengagement Plan, Israel evacuated all settlements on August 2005 and withdrew its troops by 12 September 2005. Israel also gave up all its claims on the territory and regards the border with it as a frontier. Thus, the current status of the Gaza Strip is rather uncertain, with only Palestinian Authority expected to control and rule it.
Temperate, mild winters, dry and warm to hot summers.
Flat to rolling, sand- and dune-covered coastal plain
At time of writing, getting into Gaza is both difficult and unwise. In fact, as of around 2003, all would-be visitors were required to apply in advance for Israeli permission to enter the Strip. The application is usually submitted through your embassy in Israel and, in theory takes between 5-10 days. In practice, it can take months, and if you're not either a fully accred journalist or an aid/human rights worker, you're unlikely to get permission to enter.
Gaza International Airport (GIA) was inaugurated on 24 November 1998. GIA has been largely closed since October 2000 by Israeli orders and its runway was destroyed by the Israeli Defense Forces in December 2001.
The only land entry point into the Strip is at Erez in the north. Getting to Erez is a bit kinky, as you'll need to find your way to Ashkelon and take a taxi (the distance can be shortened by taking a bus to Yad Mordechai Junction first). You can also, if you've got the money, take a taxi from Jerusalem. This is much faster than the Ashkelon/taxi method and will set you back about NIS200-250. Once through passport control, you'll find plenty of drivers fighting for the privilege of driving you to Gaza City. By the way, at the border be sure to take the VIP line, which you are entitled to through virtue of not being Palestinian. Those you see in the other line have been there since 4:30 AM and will have to return by 5 PM, as Israel only issues one-day work permits.
Note that the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Israel is physically in the Gaza Strip, but you can only enter Israel proper through it.
The port of Gaza remains non-operational.
There is no public transport in Gaza, but most any vehicle will gladly turn into a taxi if you point at the roadside with an index finger. Travel up and down Omar al-Mukhtar St. will set you back one shekel; trips elsewhere are negotiable. It is advisable to watch your step if walking, since traffic is chaotic and sidewalks are largely nonexistent.
The standard language is Arabic. Hebrew is also understood to some extent, but will not be met with a favorable reaction; English will be a safer option.
Gaza is not exactly a top tourist destination and most of its attractions have taken quite a beating during the past 50 years. The following are all in Gaza City.
The local currency is the Israeli shekel.
Usual Arabic cheap eats are available anywhere. Head to the posh suburb of Rimal for fancier food; the restaurant in the Windmill Hotel is nice.
Due to increasingly strong Hamas influences alcohol is starting to become poorly available. You can still drink at the UN club, which has been a target of Hamas threats and thus bars Palestinians entry. However, be aware that any hint of public drunkenness could place you in a very difficult situation indeed.
The Gaza Strip is currently an area of conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Consult your embassy for advise and current conditions before setting out. Travel documentation should be kept in order and close at hand at all times.
Outwardly visible signs of Jewish faith are not advisable, as you may be taken for a settler. Likewise, military clothing may leave you to be taken for a soldier.
Tap water in Gaza is not potable.
Women should dress conservatively, especially if entering refugee camps. Conservatively here means, within Gaza City a top with long sleeves and absolutely nothing low cut in the front. Ideally, tops should also be long. Trousers are suitable as long as they are loose and full length, not capri pants. When visiting anywhere outside of Gaza City, particularly refugee camps in the South, a veil is a must. However you decide to wrap it, make sure all your hair is covered.