Gazans craving fast food are paying exorbitant prices for cold chicken and soggy chips brought in through smugglers' tunnels. Hugh Naylor reports from Ramallah
KFC: cooked a secret way, delivered a secret way
RAMALLAH // Those in Gaza craving fried chicken, coleslaw and chips have had their dreams answered.
KFC now delivers … well, sort of.
There is no KFC franchise in Gaza and its 1.7 million people live under an Israeli blockade that restricts the movement of goods and people in and out of the territory.
But a Gaza delivery company, Yamama, has made it possible to order Col Sanders' signature dishes by smuggling them in from Egypt through a network of tunnels.
"People can't move easily from Gaza to Egypt and the rest of the region, so when you bring Kentucky to Gaza like we have, you've satisfied demand and made people feel happy and normal at the same time," says Yamama's enterprising founder Khalil Efrangi, 31.
Mr Efrangi says Yamama has more than 500 customers, all paying prices that would be considered extortionate anywhere else.
A 12-piece chicken bucket costs about US$27 (Dh98) - nearly three times higher than the price in Egypt.
Yamama takes orders from Gazans and phones the nearest KFC franchise in the Egypt - in the city of El Arish 65 kilometres away - from where motorcycle riders rush the deliveries to the border.
After being carried through the tunnels by smugglers, motorcyclists waiting at the other end complete the deliveries.
Taking up to four hours, the delivery process can leave buckets of chicken cold and chips soggy, but Mr Efrangi says this has not dampened appetites in Gaza.
Because Egypt restricts commercial traffic into Gaza, the meals join the illicit flow of consumer goods, building materials and rocket parts that passes through the tunnels.
The underground network keeps the territory's economy afloat and its Hamas rulers armed in its fight against Israel.
Demand for Yamama's KFC-trafficking services has risen rapidly since Mr Efrangi conceived the idea three weeks ago.
"We get orders from all over Gaza," he says.
Yamama expected to bring 80 meals into Gaza yesterday.
The extra delivery cost covers Yamama's fleet of 35 delivery men on both sides of the border, as well as fees paid to the tunnel operators.
Now, Mr Efrangi's biggest concern is Hamas, which administers Gaza and licenses and taxes its tunnels.
"They might impose special taxes on us - at least, that's what we think," he says.
With a promotional Facebook page earning more than 3,300 "likes", Yamama undoubtedly has raised eyebrows - and appetites - inside Hamas.
Some members have become customers, says Mr Efrangi, who sees Yamama's services as more than just a business.
"Palestinians in Gaza deserve access to these brands and companies, just like anyone else in the world," he says. "We bring that access to them."