Sandwiches and a Safe Space: A Gaza Restaurant Run by Women, for Women

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GAZA, Sept 12 (Reuters) – A Palestinian woman has fulfilled her dream of becoming a chef in the male-dominated Gaza Strip thanks to a new restaurant where she runs an all-female team that caters to an all-female clientele.

Opened last month and offering light fare like chicken sandwiches and pizza, “Sabaia VIP” is doing good business in a conservative, congested enclave where some women complain of a lack of private and safe places for recreation.

The chef, Amena Al-Hayek, was trained in a hotel restaurant where she worked for free. Although there were openings there for new chefs, she was never considered.

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“The administration (rejected me). They said they wanted a male leader, not a female,” Hayek told Reuters.

Sabaia means “Lasses” in Arabic, a playful choice of words for a clientele made up of women of all ages – not men.

“The idea was born out of our need to have something intimate, where we could enjoy our independence and privacy, a place just for women,” explained owner Reham Hamouda.

Hamouda employs eight women on staff and others who prepare food from home. This provides much-needed income in Gaza, where unemployment hovers around 50%.

“We proved to the world that we were capable of opening a restaurant and being successful without the supervision of a man,” said Hayek.

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Written by Nidal Almughrabi, edited by Ed Osmond

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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