Gaza fisherman battles poverty with plastic-bottle boat

Palestinian fisherman Muath Abu Zeid, second from left, whose boat is made of 700 empty plastic bottles, sells his catch to passersby on the nearby corniche in Gaza, making between $5 and $11 a day. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Gaza fisherman battles poverty with plastic-bottle boat

  • A broad slab of wood lashed to the top serves as a seat, allowing Abu Zeid to row a few hundred meters out from shore — far enough to go fishing.
  • Many in Gaza depend on fishing for a living, despite Israel enforcing a fishing zone limited to 9 miles in the south

GAZA: With hundreds of empty plastic bottles collected from the shores of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, fisherman Muath Abu Zeid has turned litter into a floating source of income.

The Palestinian father-of-four used glue and old nets to bind the bottles into a small fishing boat that he hopes will help him support his family.

Simple but effective, the 700-bottle craft is capable of carrying up to eight people out to sea, according to its 35-year-old skipper.

A broad slab of wood lashed to the top serves as a seat, allowing Abu Zeid to row a few hundred meters out from shore — far enough to go fishing.

It takes him about eight hours to pull in between five and seven kg of sardines, mullet and other small fish with his rod.

He sells his catch to passersby on the nearby corniche, making between 20 and 40 shekels ($5-$11) a day. Muath’s two younger brothers — Mohammed, 23, and Ashraf, 20 — accompany him on his daily excursions. Neither were able to find work elsewhere.

“I’m a house painter but because of the difficult situation I’m unemployed,” said skipper Muath, a descendent of refugees from a village near Jaffa in present-day Israel.

“So this boat has been a lifesaver for me and my family.”

Under a crippling Israeli blockade for more than a decade, Gaza suffers 44 percent unemployment, rising to a “staggering” 60 percent amongst the young, according to 2017 World Bank figures.

The coastal enclave’s electricity crisis means sewage is often pumped directly into the sea, leaving its 40-km coastline heavily polluted.

Yet many in Gaza depend on fishing for a living, despite Israel enforcing a fishing zone limited to nine nautical miles in the south of the enclave and just six nautical miles in the north, near Israel. Muath picked up the idea for the boat on YouTube, where he saw hobbyists designing boats using plastic bottles discarded by holidaymakers on beaches.

“I appreciated the idea and said to myself, why not preserve the environment and create a living for me and my family — and that’s what happened,” he said.

The craft cost him about $150, borrowed from his father.

He hopes to buy a fishing net soon, “so that I can pull in larger amounts of fish, sell them and live a decent life”.

The craft is fragile and he’s hemmed in by the frontier with neighboring Egypt, but he says the waters along the border have plenty of fish waiting to be caught.


Marie Antoinette’s exquisite jewels go under the hammer

Updated 12 November 2018
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Marie Antoinette’s exquisite jewels go under the hammer

  • The treasures were secretly whisked out of Paris in 1791 as King Louis XVI, his queen and their children prepared to escape during the French Revolution

GENEVA: Marie Antoinette’s dazzling diamonds and pearls, unseen in public for two centuries, will go on sale in Geneva on Wednesday in what is being billed as one of the most important royal jewelry auctions in history.
The treasures were secretly whisked out of Paris in 1791 as King Louis XVI, his queen and their children prepared to escape during the French Revolution.
They are part of a major collection, held by the Italian royal House of Bourbon-Parma, that is being sold by Sotheby’s auction house.
Out of the more than 100 lots, 10 pieces belonged to the ill-fated Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France before the revolution.
She was guillotined in Paris in October 1793 at the age of 37.
“It is the sale of the 21st century. Because how do you top Marie Antoinette?” Andres White Correal, Sotheby’s senior director of jewelry, said last month.
The highlight is Marie Antoinette’s Pearl, a natural pearl and diamond pendant valued at $1-2 million.
A natural pearl and diamond necklace composed of three rows of more than 100 slightly graduated pearls is expected to fetch $200,000-300,000, as are a pair of pearl and diamond pendant earrings.
A monogrammed ring containing a lock of her hair is valued at $8,000-10,000.
A fine natural pearl and diamond necklace is meanwhile priced at $40,000-70,000, while a double ribbon bow diamond brooch is estimated at $50,000-80,000.
“It is one of the most important royal jewelry collections ever to appear on the market and each and every jewel is absolutely imbued with history,” said Daniela Mascetti, deputy chair of Sotheby’s jewelry Europe.
The jewels followed a winding path highlighting European power dynamics in the 18th and 19th centuries.
According to accounts written by the queen’s lady in waiting, Madame Campan, Marie Antoinette spent an entire evening in the Tuileries Palace wrapping all her diamonds, rubies and pearls in cotton and enclosing them in a wooden chest.
They were sent to Brussels, governed by her sister Archduchess Marie-Christine, before being sent on to the French queen’s native Austria, and to the safe-keeping of her nephew, the emperor.
In 1792, the royal family was imprisoned in Paris. The king and queen were executed the next year, and their 10-year-old son, Louis XVIII died in captivity.
Only their daughter, Marie Therese of France, survived. She was sent to Austria in 1796, where she was given her mother’s jewels.
She had no children herself, but passed on the jewels to her niece and adopted daughter, Louise of France, Duchess of Parma, who in turn left them to her son, Robert I (1848-1907), the last ruling Duke of Parma.
They have been privately owned by relatives ever since.
Wednesday’s Bourbon-Parma sale also contains jewelry belonging to Charles X, including a diamond tiara; jewels from empress Marie Therese of Austria — Marie Antoinette’s mother — and Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I, who died in 1916.
The fleur de lys tiara, made in 1912, contains diamonds from the collection of Charles X, Marie Antoinette’s brother-in-law, who died in 1836. It is estimated at $350,000-550,000.