Know More About Palestine

Friday July 16, 2010 11:20 AM (EST+7)
Who'd be a travel agent in Gaza?

Read more: Travel, Gaza, Gaza blockade, Egypt-Israel relations

RAMALLAH, July 16 (JMCC) - A travel agent in an enclosed territory; business has not been easy for Nabil Shurafa. With changes in the restrictions imposed by the Gaza blockade Shurafa hopes that things will improve, but there remains a long way to go before he can declare business as usual.

Nabil Shurafa breaks off his explanation of the trials of being a travel agent in a territory where the large majority of citizens cannot travel, to take a call from one of his few lucky clients. It is a bank employee booked on a Cairo-Damascus Egyptair flight at 2.30am tomorrow. You'll get the bus from Rafah at 11. Be sure to tell the [Egyptian] soldier that you have to be at the airport by 1am at the latest. The flight goes from terminal three.

Mr Shurafa is happy to be having this conversation at all. For it was only after the lethal raid by Israeli commandos on a Turkish-led flotilla at the end of May that Egypt decided to open the Rafah crossing each day so as to escape the stigma of its involvement in the sealing of Gaza's borders.

Numbers admitted through the crossing are heavily restricted – out of a population of 1.5 million, it is 150 at most a day who leave, and around 20 of those are Mr Shurafa's clients. From the crossing to Cairo airport, they can expect to pay £11 – for the compulsory bus ride, overseen by the Egyptian security services.

Nobody, including Mr Shurafa, has any idea how long the opening of the Egyptian border will last. And even if it is sustained, he reckons it will take him two years to recover the big losses he incurred over the past three years, let alone start to break even on the $5,000 (£3,200) a month it costs him to run his office. But at least for now, he has some regular – if modest – business. For a change.

Read more at The Independent






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