Gaza, also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.




Gaza’s position on the crossroads between Asia and Africa has ensured it a history as troubled as it is long. Since the Canaanite period, it has been fought over, invaded and occupied by nearly all the powers that have marched across the Middle East. Aside from all of this, Gaza has one of the most beautiful beaches and extremely friendly locals. There are numerous churches and sites to see such as Qasr Al Basha (Napoleon’s Citadel), the Greek Orthodox Church and the Great Mosque.



Sights and Activities

Gaza is not exactly a top tourist destination and most of its attractions have taken quite a beating during the past 50 years. The following are all in Gaza City.

  • Grand Omari Mosque (جامع غزة الكبير, Jāmaʿ Ghazza al-Kabīr). Makes up for its lacklustre appearance with an interesting history: it's a converted Crusader church built on the site of a Hellenic temple with pillars from a 3rd-century Jewish synagogue.
  • Church of Saint Porphyrius. Orthodox church, celebrating Saint Porphyrius who was Bishop of Gaza around 395-420 CE. The current church was built around 1150 by crusaders and renovated extensively in 1856.

More educational might be a UNRWA-arranged visit to one of the refugee camps that dot the strip. The UNRWA office is on al-Azhar St, near the Islamic University, call ahead to see if they can arrange a little tour. Your most probable destination is the optimistically named Beach Camp, a warren of concrete huts and open sewers housing 63,000 people, built next to a sandy beach - and you can walk there on your own, 15 minutes to the north from the intersection of Omar al-Mukhtar St. with the seafront road. UNRWA wisely recommends avoiding military clothing. The Jabaliya refugee camp is also a nearby option. Women visiting the camps should dress more conservatively than they need to in Gaza City - headscarves are certainly recommended.




Temperate, mild winters, dry and warm to hot summers.



Getting There

Getting into Gaza is both difficult and unwise. In fact, as of around 2003, all would-be visitors were required to apply in advance for Israeli permission to enter the Strip. The application is usually submitted through your embassy in Israel and, in theory takes between 5–10 days. In practice, it can take months, and if you're not either a fully accredited journalist or an aid/human rights worker, you're unlikely to get permission to enter Gaza from Israel.

It is possible to enter Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah crossing. The crossing was reopened for traffic on June 1, 2010 though some restrictions still apply and only large groups on NGO sponsored trips will be admitted. Egyptian authorities control only their side of the crossing with Hamas police operating the other side. However, Palestinians (except for men between 18 and 40) are permitted to cross into Egypt visa-free. Reports exist of Hamas police asking for bribes of up to US$5,000 to allow people, including Palestinians, out of Gaza.

By Plane

Gaza has no functioning airport, as the former Yasser Arafat International Airport (GZA IATA) has been shut down since 2000. The airport was badly damaged by Israeli bombing attacks - most recently in 2009 - and then destroyed by Israeli bulldozers — and is unlikely to reopen in the foreseeable future. The Israeli Air Force monitors Gazan airspace with radar, and regularly sends patrols of drone aircraft and fighter jets over Gaza. A surveillance balloon is also tethered at the Erez Crossing. For the time being, the closest airports are El Arish International Airport in Egypt (which has no commercial flights) and Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv (TLV IATA).

By Land

The main point of entry is through the Erez crossing in the north, on the border with Israel. Getting to Erez is easiest done by taxi, it's also possible to travel by Dan BaDarom bus #20 from Ashkelon to the checkpoint.

You will need a permit from the Israeli Army, or a GPO (press) card. If you have a permit, you need coordination with the Israeli Army, specifying when you are planning to enter and leave Gaza. Journalists with a Government Press Office (GPO) card can come and go as they please. Only vehicles with prior coordination (such as a handful of UN cars) are allowed to drive in and only after a thorough search, which may take months. It's very helpful to travel with someone that's run the gauntlet before the first time via Erez.

At Erez, you have to approach the Israeli soldier in a pillbox. They may ask you to open your bags on the table, and (as at TLV) ask if you have weapons. They'll check your passports and permits for allowed entry. You then wait outside an electronic gate for your turn to be called through. You then enter the terminal, hand your passport and coordination over to another soldier to receive an Israeli exit stamp. That soldier may or may not ask you more questions—usually things like whether it's your first time in Gaza, etc.

If everything is satisfactory, take back your documents and follow the signs directing you to Gaza. After exiting the terminal, you end up in a long barren concrete tunnel. Don't bring anything too bulky as you'll have to go through a turnstile gate. Coming through the tunnel, you cross a no-man's-land. This is at least 1000m long, and has lovely views of desolate, and presumably mined, land. Palestinians are allowed in this area so you may be lucky and find a porter, trolley, wheelchair, or similar. Take it. If you take the tuk-tuk, keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times and enjoy the ride. The driver will be very friendly—not everyone in Gaza wants to shoot or kidnap you!

After the gated tunnel you will emerge near a small hut. This is a checkpoint which can be ignored on the way to Gaza (but ignored at your peril on the way back). Since 2012, the only people here will be a few taxi drivers.

Take a taxi to the Palestinian checkpoint, another 800m down the road. The going rate is ₪3 per person. You will be searched for unlawful items (make sure you are, it's the hut to the right. Also visit the hut to the left to check your Hamas credentials—new since October 2011)

Prohibited goods include alcohol and non-halal food, banned by the Hamas government. If you fail inspection, then at best, your items will be confiscated. At worst, you will be arrested; you are unlikely to see any guns at this point. In a particularly bad situation, retreat to Israel.

Once you are through, you can take another taxi, or more likely be picked up by your local contact.

Another way in is through the Rafah Crossing in the South, on the border with Egypt. Egyptian authorities have built a wall on it, and the only way in is through a road called the Philadelphi Route. The route is controlled by Hamas, and the point of entry and exit is controlled by Egyptian Police. You will need to bring a passport with you, as the Egyptian authorities generally do not let anyone out of the Strip into Egypt, and even getting in may pose a challenge. You may also be stopped by Hamas patrols once you enter.

Exit By Land
Entry, though difficult, pales in comparison to exit. After being deposited at the Hamas checkpoint near Hamsa Hamsa, go to the white caravan to your right to get your exit clearance. Once through, take the taxi (₪3/person) to the forward checkpoint (where the wire fence begins). Then, go to the hut on the right. A man will take your passport and call ahead to tell the Israelis you're coming. Ignore this at your own peril. Once you get your passport back, take the tuk-tuk if possible, or begin the 1 km+ walk to Israel.

When you reach the end of the tunnel, you'll see several doors. Once a handful of people have gathered, one of the doors will open (indicated by a green light on top of the door). You will then enter a hall with a table at the centre. Open your bags at the table (there are no obvious signs to do this, but look up and there's a camera. They are checking for obvious things like large bombs).

When they've ensured you have no prohibited items in your bags, go through the turnstile when the light flashes green. You will not receive a verbal "OK", but rest assured you will be shouted at in Hebrew if you're not ok.

You will see toilet facilities to your right. Use them. Follow the arrows to Israel. You will then encounter another hall with eight doorways. Wait until one of the lights go green then enter that doorway. Leave your bags with the porter at a large security scanner. You should remove all electronics not just laptops, but things like disk drives, mobile phones, etc.) and place them in the large trays. Remove your belt, watch, etc. too.

Keep your passport and ID on you and enter a series of gates as the lights flash green. When you come to the body scanner (a MMW scanner), put your feet on the markers and place your hands over your head in an "I surrender" pose. Keep your passport in your hands. If you've passed initial screening, you will be allowed out to a hall where it appears as if your bags will emerge on a conveyor belt. There may even be empty trays circling it.

Walk straight through to the departures hall, as your bag will be selected for a hand search. On your left in a row where trays with bags will gather, and you can see the guards searching your bags. Wait paitently. If you haven't passed initial screening, you'll be directed through further scanning. There is a separate section that will reveal itself to you if the guards in the gallery above find the need for a strip search.

Once you collect your belongings, you will finally pass through Israeli entry, and get a new stamp in your passport. You're then free and in Israel. Count yourself lucky you own a western passport.

Exit from Gaza could take from 30 minutes to several hours. The checkpoint closes at 14:00, or even earlier. If you are stuck between Hamas and Israel phone your embassy for assistance, but don't try to re-enter Gaza. If you're using Erez you're probably "western", and you're safer in Israeli hands.

By Boat

The port of Gaza is non-operational, and Gazan waters, seaports, and the coastline are patrolled by the Israeli Navy. If you attempt to reach the Gaza shoreline by boat, you will be stopped by Israeli naval vessels, and turned back. Only boats with prior permission are allowed in. All boats coming from Gaza are allowed to venture six nautical miles into the sea. Any vessel crossing this line is fired on. In 2010 a six-ship flotilla attempted to reach Gaza by sea, and was intercepted by Israeli warships; ten people were killed by Israeli forces and the ships never reached Gaza. It is strongly recommended not to attempt to visit Gaza in this manner.



Getting Around

There is no public transport in Gaza, but there are numerous service (ser-VEESS) taxis. Navigation is done by landmark, not street address. Stand on the side of the road that is in the desired direction of travel. When a driver stops indicate the destination landmark e.g., "Shifa" and the number of passengers ("wahid" for one, "it-nayn" for two.) If the driver is not headed that way, he may drive on. Travel up and down Omar al-Mukhtar St. will set you back ₪1; trips elsewhere are negotiable. Near al-Shifa hospital is a line of taxis that travel to destinations beyond Gaza city. The drivers yell out their destination and wait until their vehicle is pretty much full before they leave. It is advisable to watch your step if walking, since traffic is chaotic and sidewalks are largely non-existent.




Usual Arabic cheap eats are available anywhere. Head to the posh suburb of Rimal for fancier food; the restaurant in the Windmill Hotel is nice. Also keep in mind that if you wish to bring in any food, you should first check which foods are and are not acceptable under Islam. If you are caught with forbidden food, it may lead to trouble with the authorities or the local population. Finally, it is not unheard of to be invited over for dinner.

  • Abu Hassera. Fish specialist.
  • Aldeira Restaurant. On the seaside terrace, this restaurant serves lovely mezes (small Mediterranean-style dishes), including the Gazan speciality Daqqa (a sometimes very spicy chili salad, very nice). They also have some tasty main courses: try the shrimps in tomato sauce, baked in the oven, and served in a clay pot. And don't miss out on the fresh strawberry juice! Enhanced with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, it is highly enjoyable. Remember that the sale of alcohol in Gaza is restricted and that as of most recently, you cannot bring it in with you when you arrive in the Strip.
  • Matouk (Behind the legislative council building). Serves an excellent chicken tawwouk.
  • Roots Club, Cairo St, Remal (in the heart of Gaza City), ☏ +972 8 2888666, fax: +972 8 2888999, ✉ info@rootsclub.ps. Fine dining. Offers both high end Arabian/Mediterranean cuisine and cheaper fast food at the Big Bite annex. The restaurant frequently caters for special events, including foreign dignitaries and heads of non-governmental organizations.
  • Al Mat'haf Resort (Soudnya beach), ☏ +970 8 2858444. On a small hill overlooking the sea in Gaza stands “Al-Mathaf” (Arabic for “The Museum”, pronounced Al-Mat-Haf), a one-of-a-kind recreation and cultural center that showcases Gaza’s rich historical past and seamlessly blends it into the context of life in modern Gaza. As its name suggests, Al-Mathaf is home to Gaza’s finest archaeological museum, which is filled with beautiful artifacts that celebrate Gaza’s rich cultural heritage. Along-side these historical treasures of ancient civilizations, today’s Gazans gathers at Al-Mathaf’s beautiful Restaurant-Café, a center of modern culture and recreation in Gaza. In a time when many in Gaza have forgotten our heritage, Al-Mathaf aims to preserve the regions rich history, provide a venue for modern cultural dialogue, and carry a message for this generation to build a brighter future.




Due to increasingly strong Hamas influences, alcohol is no longer available. Alcohol is forbidden in their interpretation of Islam, and Hamas, as a conservative Islamic group, prohibits it. The last place for a visitor to drink was the UN Club. However, the Club was bombed by unknown attackers on New Year's Eve 2006. If you do manage to find some booze, however, you should not attempt to go out under the influence; you may land in a very bad situation indeed. If you are caught with booze on your person by Hamas authorities, it will probably be confiscated, and you may be detained. Bags are given a quick search on entry to Gaza.




There are several hotels in Gaza. However, it is also possible to stay with locals who might even invite you over for a night.

  • Aldeira Hotel, Al Rasheed Street, ☏ +972 8 283 8100, fax: +972 8 283 8400, ✉ info@aldeira.ps. Massive rooms with a view of the sea, breakfast included. Most international journalists and NGOs stay at the Deira, which has a back-up generator, a business centre and WiFi. Pleasant (though by Gaza's standards not superb) restaurant (with Shisha pipes, although not allowed in the fine Oriental bedrooms). Don't be alarmed that the water tastes salty. Rooms include non-alcoholic minibar, hairdryer, towels, soap, shampoo, conditioner, and a little plate of cookies. $100–185USD/night.
  • Commodore Hotel. Has a sauna, jacuzzi, massage, multiple restaurants, 24-hour room service, a swimming pool, and reportedly Kosher food.
  • Grand Palace Hotel, Al Rasheed Street, ☏ +970 8 2849498, fax: +970 8 2849497, ✉ info@grandpalace.ps. At the beach side of Gaza city, 3km from city centre, direct beach view, conference, food and beverage facilities.
  • Marna House. Gaza's oldest hotel, run by a friendly family.
  • Al Mat'haf Hotel, info@almathaf.ps (Soudunya beach), ☏ +970 8 2858444. As a second phase, Al-Mathaf is just completed the construction of a boutique hotel, which will feature traditionally designed rooms with a sea view, as well as multi-purpose halls and facilities to provide business services, as well as health, fitness, and spa facility.



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This is version 15. Last edited at 10:42 on Jul 8, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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