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The Culture Of Fishing In Gaza

posted on: Dec 29, 2021

By: Anthony Bayyouk / Arab America Contributing Wrtier

After a long day at school or work, people in Gaza will go home to find fish on the dinner table. The small enclave about the same size as Detroit is located in the southwest part of Palestine and borders the Mediterranean sea. The fishing culture in Palestine is very popular simply due to its location on the map. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians make an income from fishing in the Mediterranean Sea and selling fish in their markets. The Mediterranean has been a lifeline for people living in Palestine. There are over 100,000 people in Gaza that benefit from the fishing industry. The fishing industry goes beyond just catching and selling fish. The industry has created sub-sectors such as selling fishing supplies, or boats. Living off the land is something Arabs do very well. Whether it’s fishing in the Mediterranean or cultivating olive oil through the fields of olive trees, Arabs are experts at using the earth as a source of income. There are many different sectors and markets in the Arab World that depend on the earth’s resources for survival. 

Men and typically their sons wake up early in the morning to start the day at the port. Their livelihoods are in the hands of the sea. Whether they can feed their children and pay bills depends on how good their catch is each day and how much money people in Gaza have to spend on fish. Men take out their boats early in the morning and cast out their nets. About five hours later they bring the net back up, and head back to the ports. Then the selling starts. There are many different places where fishermen can make money from their fish. Actions are held on the beach each day. Owners of markets and restaurants typically have their own favorite fishermen they like to buy from. Often men and women attend the actions to buy fish and take them directly home. Owners of their own markets and restaurants may also have their favorite fishermen they like to buy their fish from.

The fishing industry brings people together and gives them something to bond over. The beautiful blue Mediterranean creates happy memories in times where it is much needed in Gaza. The fresh air that fishermen breathe while out at sea is something that can’t be experienced in the inner city filled with cars, factories, and pollution. But the sea gives the fishermen a break from the fast-paced life on land and gives them a sense of freedom, something that people of Gaza don’t get to experience much.

Popular dishes across the world tend to correlate with the region’s natural resources. Sushi is popular in Japan because they are an island nation surrounded by fish. Arabs nations tend to incorporate olive oil in many of their dishes because olives are abundant in the region. By nature, Palestianas incorporate fish in many of their dishes because there is such a big supply. Dishes that are typically made with meat or chicken may be swapped out for fish. 

A popular dish that is made with seafood, is zibdiyit gambari which is a spicy shrimp and tomato soup. The whole large shrimp is stewed in a clay pot with tomatoes, chilis, garlic, fresh dill, sweet peppers, and olive oil, and garnished with toasted pine nuts or almonds. Or else they might make the classic sayyadiy , or “fisherman’s dish,” in which chunks of fish are fried with caramelized onions, cumin, and turmeric, then water and lemon juice are added and the fish simmers until nearly done. Finally, rice is added to cook slowly in this broth with the fish.

The fishing culture in Gaza can be viewed from different points of view. Although the situation is tense and there are many restrictions on fishermen, there is still a positive view of the culture. Fishing has been part of the Gaza culture for centuries and regardless of the restrictions, the Palestinian people will always find a way to carry on culture and traditions. Whether the land will be called Palestine or Israel in the next century, these traditions will always be  Palestinian and will be passed down to generations to come. 

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