Wedding Celebrations Return to Gaza After Halt Over COVID-19

A Palestinian photographer takes pictures for the groom, Ishaq Musleh, and his bride, Shima' al-Titi, in the Palestinian Deheisheh refugee camp near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on April 10, 2020. Photo: Luay Sababa / Xinhua

GAZA, June 11 (Xinhua) — After a long halt due to the outbreak of COVID-19, wedding celebrations seem to be coming back in the Palestinian coastal enclave as the coronavirus pandemic is retreating.

After two months of anxious waiting, Mohammed Abu Ghalyoun from Gaza city finally celebrated his wedding, which had been postponed for many times due to the lockdown imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Palestinian worker cleans a wedding hall in Gaza City, June 8, 2020. Photo: Rizek Abdeljawad / Xinhua

The 29-year-old groom said that he once was worried about losing the money invested in the ceremony if the lockdown continued.

Under the Palestinian tradition, the groom is supposed to pay for the wedding party and other related expenses, such as renting wedding hall and cars, as well as holding banquet.

“It is too expensive. I forked out about 5,000 U.S. dollars for my party,” Abu Ghalyoun told Xinhua.

A Palestinian worker cleans a wedding hall in Gaza City, June 3, 2020. Photo: Rizek Abdeljawad / Xinhua

Samar Ibrahim, from the central Gaza Strip city of Dir al-Balah, refused to ditch the traditional wedding party and have a more modest event in April as pressured by her fiance and his family.

“I had prepared everything to celebrate my wedding,” the 24-year-old bride said. “If I ditch my wedding party, I would feel remorse for the rest of my life.”

Palestinian women display face masks that they made out of fabric amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic at a doll and puppet shop in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, on April 22, 2020. The women also designed face masks for ladies to wear at wedding occasions. Photo: Khaled Omar / Xinhua

Now, the enthusiastic bride is busy preparing for her wedding party with her family, friends and relatives, which will be held in the coming days.

“The happiness is more important than any other thing,” she said.

Spring and summer months usually see an increase in the number of weddings in the Gaza Strip.

After the long halt due to the outbreak of COVID-19, wedding celebrations seem to be coming back in the Palestinian coastal enclave as the coronavirus pandemic is retreating.

Earlier in June, the Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, began easing the precautionary and preventive measures that were imposed in mid-March, opening local mosques, restaurants and wedding halls.

At the same time, people attending such events are asked to take precautionary measures, such as wearing masks and gloves, and maintaining social distancing.

Ramiz Idris, a wedding planner in Gaza city, is one of those who breathed a sigh of relief after hearing that Hamas decided to ease the strict measures imposed on the wedding halls.

Idris, the only breadwinner of his family of six, complained about the economic crisis that he suffered from the lockdown.

“Coronavirus negatively affected our economic condition. We stayed home for 66 days with no jobs or any resource of income,” he said, while arranging tables in the wedding hall

Salah Abu Hasira, head of the Palestinian Corporation for Restaurants, Hotels and Tourism Services, told Xinhua that around 2,500 out of 6,000 employees in the tourism industry had returned to their jobs recently.

He noted that the employees in the local tourism sector were severely affected by the lockdown, adding the decision to ease the restrictions “would save the sector of tourism which includes 500 tourism establishments.”

In the past, the tourism industry in Palestine suffered from several crises, but the coronavirus pandemic affected all the players in the sector, Abu Hasira said.

He hoped that the coming months would be able to compensate them for the loss of income due to the coronavirus lockdown.

However, not everyone was optimistic. Ghazal Handouqa, the owner of Gloria’s wedding hall in the Gaza city, told Xinhua that she doubted she would be able to recover from the abyss she went into following the outbreak of the pandemic.

“It is difficult to compensate us for the losses. We hope we can make profits during the summer season, but that is also tough because we have already lost two months,” said Handouqa, a 37-year-old mother of four.

The young woman explained that around 60 of 65 originally booked wedding parties were canceled due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. On March 22, the Hamas-run government declared a state of emergency, imposing a series of precautionary restrictions.

Since then, all mosques, universities, schools and restaurants were temporarily shut down, and public gatherings were prohibited, especially in the marketplaces.

Story: Sanaa Kamal