Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

Made in Gaza: wedding limousine built from five different cars

When wedding planner Salama Al Odi was blocked by Israel from importing a limousine for his business in Gaza, he was not dissuaded. Instead, he built his own – from six other cars.
A Palestinian mechanic working on his limousine at his workshop in Gaza on April 22, 2017. Made up of five different cars, it will be rented out for use at marriage ceremonies. Mahmud Hams/AFP
A Palestinian mechanic working on his limousine at his workshop in Gaza on April 22, 2017. Made up of five different cars, it will be rented out for use at marriage ceremonies. Mahmud Hams/AFP

Gaza City // When wedding planner Salama Al Odi was blocked by Israel from importing a limousine for his business in Gaza, he was not dissuaded.

Instead, he built his own – from five other cars.

“It took us three months and US$21,000 (Dh77,122)” to build the vehicle, says Mr Al Odi, as mechanics put the finishing touches to the limo.

The result looks something like a cross between a car and a spaceship, with a rounded roof extending upward from what would have been the original top.

In his small mechanic shop, a group of men are busy taking parts from a collection of different cars and adding them to a white Mercedes.

Some 30 people weighed in on the design and drew up plans for the improvised limousine.

The interior with curtains was “completely conceived in Gaza,” Mr Al Odi says.

The entrepeneur had hoped to import a limousine as part of the various services he offers to young Gazans by his company, Farha, but he was unable to.

Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade for 10 years, with the entry and exit of goods and people tightly controlled by Israel.

Its sole crossing with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, run by the hardline Hamas movement, have fought three wars since 2008.

Israeli officials say the blockade is necessary to prevent the importation of weapons and materials that could be used to make them, but UN officials have called for it to be lifted. The blockade has led to appalling conditions for the two million people trapped in the territory.

With poverty widespread and unemployment at nearly 45 per cent, Gazans have had to show creativity – and Mr Al Odi has responded to the challenge.

The final touches include hand-painted designs across the sides of the limo.

The first bride and groom should be able to climb aboard as soon as Thursday.

Mr Al Odi says he will offer it at an affordable rate for young people in Gaza, where marriages have been delayed due to a lack of financial resources.

For him, seeing the homemade vehicle roll through the streets of Gaza will also be a message to Gazans to “not give in to the restrictions” imposed by Israel.

“You have to answer by inventing and embarking on an adventure,” he said.

*Agence France-Presse

Updated: April 23, 2017 04:00 AM

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