Gazans delight in locally produced sweets

A shop employee holds up jars of the Gazan-produced ‘Natalia’. (AFP)
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Updated 14 February 2020

Gazans delight in locally produced sweets

GAZA CITY: Off a bumpy dirt road in Gaza city, a group of children stood outside a half-open factory door, desperate to get their hands on what was being made inside.

“We want chocolate!” they shouted at a worker as he left the Al-Arees factory, which despite daunting obstacles churns out treats ranging from chocolate-covered biscuits to a Gazan version of a world famous spread, dubbed here ‘Natalia’.

Buckling in the face of candy-crazed kids, the man popped behind the door and returned with enough free chocolate to rot their growing teeth.

Al-Arees’s products are Gazan but their components are not, as few of the basic raw ingredients are produced in the impoverished Mediterranean coastal strip.

The factory relies on chocolate from as far afield as Argentina, sugar from African countries and dried eggs from the Netherlands, with other essentials imported from Turkey and Israel.

Israel controls all goods that enter Gaza, imposing a blockade that tightened after the tiny enclave was seized by the Islamist group Hamas in 2007.

Getting them into Gaza requires patience and money.

“From Ashdod we pay for workers and trucks that take these goods to the Kerem Shalom border crossing (between Gaza and Israel),” said Wael Ai, head of Al-Arees.

“Then you take them out of the truck for checks, then onto another truck from Gaza and after about 500 meters you have another checkpoint for Hamas,” he added.

“I pay customs twice,” he told AFP, meaning once in Ashdod where Israel collects fees on behalf of the official Palestinian government based in the West Bank and then in Gaza to Hamas.

Due to Gaza’s electricity shortages, Ai has installed three fuel-guzzling generators. “If you want anything done in Gaza you have to do it yourself,” he said.

Local factories also make Crimpos, a large marshmallow coated in a thick layer of chocolate.

Despite ongoing tensions, Israel and Hamas have reached a series of agreements over the past year that have slightly eased tensions.

That fragile accord led to an event in December which, for a Gazan producer, could fairly be described as momentous: for the first time in years Gaza exported sweet goods.

Eight tons of Crimpos were cleared for export to Bahrain, crossing through Israel and the West Bank to Jordan, and onward to the Gulf Arab state.

After increased Gaza rocket
fire following Trump’s peace proposal, Israel again tightened the export rules and canceled 500 permits for Gazans to work in Israel.

But Wadiya remains optimistic.

“If you can succeed in Gaza, you can succeed anywhere.”


Saudi PIF unit SEVEN to build theme parks and entertainment centers across the Kingdom

Updated 25 February 2020

Saudi PIF unit SEVEN to build theme parks and entertainment centers across the Kingdom

  • Plans include 20 entertainment destinations, 50 cinemas and two large theme parks in prime locations across the Kingdom
  • Each complex will feature several entertainment and leisure choices including cinemas, play areas, rides and F&B outlets

LONDON: The Saudi Entertainment Ventures Company (SEVEN) plans to develop theme parks and entertainment centers around the country.
Plans include 20 entertainment destinations, 50 cinemas and two large theme parks in prime locations across the Kingdom, the Public Investment Fund unit said in a statement on Tuesday.
Each complex will feature several entertainment and leisure choices including cinemas, play areas, rides, F&B, attractions and more. 
“We are committed to realizing the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 to accelerate the creation of world-class entertainment assets in the Kingdom that support economic diversification, create new jobs, and contribute to socio-economic progress,” said SEVEN Chairman Abdullah Al-Dawood. “Our complexes will position the Kingdom as an entertainment, culture and tourism hub of the region.”
The new attractions are planned for cities that include Jeddah, Jazan, Taif, Tabuk and Yanbu as well as the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah.
In the capital the entertainment center at Al Hamra will serve the densely populated suburbs of north east Riyadh, with some 2.5 million people living within a 30 minute drive. In Dammam and Al Khobar, SEVEN is also developing new waterfront attractions.
Entertainment is expected to be a key driver for Saudi economic growth over the next four years according to a report released this week by CBRE, the international real estate broker.
In addition to the new entertainment centers announced by the PIF, a number of other high-profile projects are underway, including the Qiddiya Entertainment City, The Red Sea Project, AMAALA, Al Ula, King Salman Park and Riyadh Sport Boulevard.
The retail and hospitality sectors are expected to benefit from the entertainment boom with total retail space in the capital expected to reach 3.5 million square meters (sq m) of gross leasable area by 2024. By 2024, Jeddah’s retail market is expected to witness considerable supply growth, reaching over 2 million sq m. 
As of 2019, the Kingdom received about 59 million tourist trips and these figures are expected to continue to increase to 100 million tourist trips by 2024.
“It is clear that Saudi Arabia remains one of the game changers in the entertainment sectors globally,” said CBRE MENAT Managing Director Nicholas Maclean.