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Meet Me in Gaza


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Table of Contents

Glossary 7 Introduction 11 Part One Hammam al-Samara 17 The hafla 26 Moles in damp tunnels 30 Sun and moon letters 43 Even the foreigners are escaping! 56 Gaza from the air 67 Coffee and cigarettes 76 Zift 79 Scents of history 88 Great night for a party! 95 Tom and Jerry 103 Part Two The milking station 113 Why no one visits the Swailams 120 Catherine and the Tulip 129 Rocket talk 136 Shortly before six in the morning 142 Part Three Pleasure at the weekend 147 Of all the ports 158 Sea creatures 170 Ramadan for Christians 177 Operation Smile and Hope 186 Bedouin 193 Bell jar 196 Part Four The Fridge 209 Bruno does tension zones 216 How-How 222 Muhammad and all the things he might have done 230 The Mathaf 236 Imagining A. Love 240 part five The same but now different 251 The cage 263 Abu Nidal goes first class to Cairo 270 Chance of rain: zero per cent 279 The Wadi of Pleasure 286 Epilogue 294 Acknowledgements 297 Notes 299

About the Author

Louisa B. Waugh lived and worked in the Gaza Strip from December 2007 to April 2009. Her other works include Hearing Birds Fly: A Nomadic Year in Mongolia, which won the 2004 inaugural Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, and Selling Olga: Stories of Human Trafficking and Resistance. Author location: Edinburgh, Scotland


'This book penetrates the surface to reveal the more human face of the place that few have been able to experience let alone describe. Unlike any other book about Gaza, Meet Me in Gaza will please, educate and inspire. Vividly written, it is infused with a love of life.' Raja Shehadeh, author of 'Palestinian Walks' 'A moving and fascinating insight into life in Gaza - Because Waugh stays so long I've begun to feel I know what life is like there, the weariness and terror, the unexpected pleasures, and the many, many invitations to dinner.' Esther Freud, author of 'Lucky Break' and 'Hideous Kinky' 'In this powerful and deeply heartfelt book, Louisa Waugh has succeeded in showing us the true face of Gaza. We encounter Palestinians in their living rooms, at work, in cafes, and at parties and weddings. In bringing Gaza to life, she has highlighted the commonalities between us. I urge everyone to read this.' Izzeldin Abuelaish, author of 'I Shall Not Hate' 'Not many of us would have the courage to lay ourselves on the line and go and live in the Gaza strip. I'd rather somebody else did it for me, to show my solidarity with the beleaguered Palestinians; and, of just about anybody I can think of, I'd like it to be Louisa Waugh. In Meet Me In Gaza she shows her extraordinary credentials for this courageous undertaking: a deep wellspring of human warmth, a tenacious ability to find the tiny spark of joy in the most dismal surroundings, to seek out beauty amongst ugliness, an incontrovertible honesty, and then the eloquence to tell us the story and make us understand. She is not drawn in to easy sentimentality, nor to knee-jerk reactions. She treads a steady line of reason through all the absurdities and horrors she encounters, and comes up with a tender portrait of beleaguered humanity. This is what we do: we adapt, manage, carry on, even in the most appalling circumstances; but when it is told this well, the story cannot be told too often.' Chris Stewart 'Combining history, political reportage and personal stories, this book does not shirk from the grim physical and mental conditions in Gaza. However, in its portrait of the spirit, dignity and resourcefulness of these beleaguered people, Meet Me In Gaza is a valuable corrective to the western media view of a territory capable only of suffering. Waugh finds laughter, rage, resistance and beauty in Gaza and even, despite all the odds, hope. Her honest and big-hearted celebration of the Gazan people deserves the warmest welcome.' New Internationalist 'The power and value of this brave account lies ... in her description of the people of Gaza and the lives they live. [Waugh] quotes the Gazan poet Soumaya Susi, who explained that to live in Gaza, you must create your own secret world . This is Waugh's secret world, inhabited by people living under two occupations: Hamas and Israel , but who still find pride in their history and pleasure in their communities and on the beach.' Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times 'A riveting, revealing and poignant account' Mariella Frostrup, BBC4 Open Book 'Meet Me in Gaza is a vivid, humane and important book. Please read it.' A Life in Books 'Waugh succeeds in showing parts of Gaza that foreign correspondents never reach ... We can learn what it feels like to be dispossessed, to live lives that are deliberately made small, that are often very purposefully and directly threatened.' Scotsman on Sunday 'The characters and moments [Waugh] brings to life are both deeply moving and deeply disturbing. Whilst she does not make victims out of the people she meets, the reader is still able to feel empathy, respect and ultimately a desire to meet them at one of their parties, eat their delicious food and chat to them about their families, home, work, and their life under Israeli occupation.' Middle East Monitor 'It is at long last welcome to find a book that is gentle and subtle in its rendering of the life faced by most Gazans. - [This is] a very different offbeat insight into Gaza and its people, delivered in a narrative style that succeeds precisely because it is simple, straightforward and devoid of any ostentation - As readers we should be grateful for that and the eloquent, perceptive book [Waugh] has written.' David Pratt, Sunday Herald 'The author kept a journal - that takes the reader under the surface of the contemporary Gaza Strip. She also weaves Gaza's rich but largely overlooked history through the text. It is the work of a gifted writer who observes sensitively, but not uncritically, the Gazans she meets and befriends. The book is, therefore, a welcome addition to the few existing titles on the Gaza shelf.' Gerald Butt, The Middle East in London

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