Gaza (/ˈɡɑːzə/; Arabic: غزة Ġazzah,
IPA: [ˈɣazza]; Hebrew: עַזָּה, Modern 'Aza,
Tiberian 'Azā Ancient Ġāzā), also referred to as Gaza City,
is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of 515,556,
making it the largest city in the State of Palestine. Inhabited since
at least the 15th century BC, Gaza has been dominated by several
different peoples and empires throughout its history. The Philistines
made it a part of their pentapolis after the Ancient
ruled it for nearly 350 years.
Under the Romans and later the Byzantines, Gaza experienced relative
peace and its port flourished. In 635 AD, it became the first city in
Palestine to be conquered by the
Rashidun army and quickly developed
into a center of Islamic law. However, by the time the Crusaders
invaded the city in the late 11th century, it was in ruins. In later
centuries, Gaza experienced several hardships—from Mongol raids to
floods and locusts, reducing it to a village by the 16th century, when
it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. During the first half of
Ottoman rule, the
Ridwan dynasty controlled Gaza and under them the
city went through an age of great commerce and peace. The municipality
of Gaza was established in 1893.
Gaza fell to British forces during World War I, becoming a part of
Mandatory Palestine. As a result of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Egypt
administered the newly formed
Gaza Strip territory and several
improvements were undertaken in the city. Gaza was captured by Israel
Six-Day War in 1967, but in 1993, the city was transferred to
the Palestinian National Authority. In the months following the 2006
election, an armed conflict broke out between the Palestinian
political factions of
Fatah and Hamas, resulting in the latter taking
power in Gaza.
Israel consequently imposed a blockade on the
Israel eased the blockade allowing consumer goods in
June 2010, and
Egypt reopened the
Rafah border crossing in 2011 to
The primary economic activities of Gaza are small-scale industries and
agriculture. However, the blockade and recurring conflicts has put the
economy under severe pressure. The majority of Gaza's inhabitants
are Muslim, although there is also a Christian minority. Gaza has a
very young population with roughly 75% under the age of 25. The city
is currently administered by a 14-member municipal council.
2.1 Bronze Age
2.2 Ancient period
2.3 Roman Empire
2.4 Islamic era
2.5 Ottoman rule
2.6 Modern era
2.6.1 Palestinian control
3.1 Old City
6.1 Cultural centers and museums
6.3 Costumes and embroidery
8.2 Public library
10.1 Water supply and sanitation
10.2 Power grid
10.3 Solid waste management
11 Health care
13 International relations
13.1 Twin towns and sister cities
14 See also
17 External links
The name "Gaza" is first known from military records of Thutmose III
Egypt in the 15th century BC. According to Shahin, the Ancient
Egyptians called it "Ghazzat" ("prized city"), and the ancient Muslims
often referred to it as "Ghazzat Hashem", in honor of Hashim, the
great-grandfather of Muhammad, who is buried in the city, according to
Islamic tradition. In Semitic languages, the meaning of the city
name is "fierce, strong".
Other proper Arabic transliterations for the Arabic name are Ghazzah
or Ġazzah (DIN 31635). Accordingly, "Gaza" might be spelled "Gazza"
in English. Although the "z" is double in Arabic, it was
transliterated into Greek as a single zeta, and the voiced velar or
uvular fricative at the beginning was transliterated with a gamma.
The Hebrew name of the city is Aza (עזה) – the ayin at the
beginning of the word represented a voiced velar fricative in Biblical
Hebrew, but in Modern Hebrew, it is silent.
Main article: History of Gaza
Gaza's history of habitation dates back 5,000 years, making it one of
the oldest cities in the world. Located on the Mediterranean
coastal route between North Africa and the Levant, for most of its
history it served as a key entrepôt of the southern Palestine and an
important stopover on the spice trade route traversing the Red
Settlement in the region of Gaza dates back to Tell es-Sakan, an
Ancient Egyptian fortress built in Canaanite territory to the south of
present-day Gaza. The site went into decline throughout the Early
Bronze Age II as its trade with
Egypt sharply decreased. Another
urban center known as
Tell al-Ajjul began to grow along the Wadi
Ghazza riverbed. During the Middle Bronze Age, a revived Tell es-Sakan
became the southernmost locality in Palestine, serving as a fort. In
1650 BCE, when the Canaanite
Hyksos occupied Egypt, a second city
developed on the ruins of the first Tell as-Sakan. However, it was
abandoned by the 14th century BCE, at the end of the Bronze Age.
Gaza later served as Egypt's administrative capital in Canaan.
During the reign of Tuthmosis III, the city became a stop on the
Syrian-Egyptian caravan route and was mentioned in the Amarna letters
as "Azzati". Gaza remained under Egyptian control for 350 years until
it was conquered by the
Philistines in the 12th century BC, becoming a
part of their "pentapolis". According to the Book of Judges, Gaza
was the place where
Samson was imprisoned by the
Philistines and met
After being ruled by the Israelites, Assyrians, and then the
Egyptians, Gaza achieved relative independence and prosperity under
the Persian Empire.
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great besieged Gaza, the last city
to resist his conquest on his path to Egypt, for five months before
finally capturing it 332 BCE; the inhabitants were either killed
or taken captive. Alexander brought in local Bedouins to populate Gaza
and organized the city into a polis (or "city-state"). Greek culture
consequently took root and Gaza earned a reputation as a flourishing
center of Hellenic learning and philosophy. During the Third War
of the Diadochi,
Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy I Soter defeated
Demetrius I of Macedon
Demetrius I of Macedon in a
battle near Gaza in 312 BCE. In 277 BCE, following Ptolemy II's
successful campaign against the
Nabataeans the Ptolemaic fortress of
Gaza took control of the spice trade with
Gerrha and Southern Arabian.
Gaza experienced another siege in 96 BCE by the
Alexander Jannaeus who "utterly overthrew" the city, killing 500
senators who had fled into the temple of
Apollo for safety.
Josephus notes that Gaza was resettled under the rule of Herod
Antipas, who cultivated friendly relations with Gazans, Ascalonites
and neighboring Arabs after being appointed governor of Idumea by
Jannaeus. Rebuilt after it was incorporated into the Roman Empire
in 63 BCE under the command of Pompey Magnus, Gaza then became a part
of the Roman province of Judaea. It was targeted by Jewish forces
during their rebellion against Roman rule in 66 and was partially
destroyed. It nevertheless remained an important city, even more
so after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Throughout the Roman period, Gaza was a prosperous city and received
grants and attention from several emperors. A 500-member senate
governed Gaza, and a diverse variety of Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians,
Jews, Egyptians, Persians, and
Bedouin populated the city. Gaza's mint
issued coins adorned with the busts of gods and emperors. During
his visit in 130 CE, Emperor
Hadrian personally inaugurated
wrestling, boxing, and oratorical competitions in Gaza's new stadium,
which became known from
Alexandria to Damascus. The city was adorned
with many pagan temples; the main cult being that of Marnas. Other
temples were dedicated to Zeus, Helios, Aphrodite, Apollo,
the local Tyche.
Christianity began to spread throughout Gaza in
250 CE, including in the port of Maiuma. A large
synagogue existed in Gaza in the 6th century, according to
excavations. and a Christian bishopric established at
Christianity in Gaza was accelerated under Saint
Porphyrius between 396 and 420. In 402,
Theodosius II ordered all
eight of the city's pagan temples destroyed, and four years later
Aelia Eudocia commissioned the construction of a church atop
the ruins of the Temple of Marnas. It was during this era that the
Aeneas of Gaza called Gaza, his hometown, "the
Athens of Asia." Following the division of the
Roman Empire in the
3rd century CE, Gaza remained under control of the Eastern Roman
Empire that in turn became the Byzantine Empire. The city prospered
and was an important center for the southern Palestine.
In 634 CE Gaza was besieged by the
Rashidun army under general 'Amr
ibn al-'As following the
Battle of Ajnadayn between the Byzantine
Empire and the
Rashidun Caliphate in central Palestine. It was
captured by Amr's forces about three years later. Believed to be the
site where Muhammad's great grandfather
Hashim ibn Abd Manaf was
buried, Gaza was not destroyed and its inhabitants were not attacked
by 'Amr's army despite the city's stiff and lengthy resistance,
although its Byzantine garrison was massacred. The arrival of the
Muslim Arabs brought significant changes to Gaza; at first some of its
churches were transformed into mosques, including the present Great
Mosque of Gaza (the oldest in the city), which was later rebuilt by
Sultan Baibars, who endowed it with a huge manuscript library
containing over 20,000 manuscripts in the 13th century, a large
segment of the population swiftly adopted Islam, Arabic became
the official language. In 767
Muhammad ibn Idris ash-
born in Gaza and lived his early childhood there; he founded the
Shafi'i religious code, one of the four major Sunni
Muslim schools of
law (fiqh). Security, which was well-maintained during early
Muslim rule, was the key to Gaza's prosperity. Although alcohol was
banned in Islam, the Jewish and Christian communities were allowed to
maintain wine production, and grapes, a major cash crop of the city,
were exported mainly to Egypt.
Because it bordered the desert, Gaza was vulnerable to warring nomadic
groups. In 796 it was destroyed during a civil war between the
Arab tribes of the area. However, by the 10th century, the city
had been rebuilt by the Abbasids; during
Abbasid rule, the
Jerusalemite geographer al-Muqaddasi described Gaza as "a large town
lying on the highroad to
Egypt on the border of the desert." In
977, the Fatimids established an agreement with their rivals, the
Seljuk Turks, whereby the Fatimids would control Gaza and the land
south of it, including
Egypt and the Seljuks controlled the region
north of the city.
The Crusaders conquered Gaza in 1100 and King Baldwin III built a
castle in the city for the
Knights Templar in 1149. He also had
Mosque converted into the Cathedral of Saint John. In
Arab traveller al-Idrisi wrote Gaza "is today very populous and
in the hands of the Crusaders." In 1187 the Ayyubids, led by
Sultan Saladin, captured Gaza and later destroyed the city's
fortifications in 1191.
Richard the Lionheart
Richard the Lionheart apparently refortified
the city in 1192, but the walls were dismantled again as a result of
Treaty of Ramla agreed upon months later in 1193.
ended in 1260, after the Mongols under
Hulagu Khan completely
destroyed Gaza, which became his southernmost conquest.
Following Gaza's destruction by the Mongols,
Egypt known as the Mamluks began to administer the area. In
1277, the Mamluks made Gaza the capital of a province that bore its
name, Mamlakat Ghazzah (Governorship of Gaza). This district extended
along the coastal plain of Palestine from
Rafah in the south to just
north of Caesarea, and to the east as far as the Samarian highlands
Hebron Hills. Other major towns in the province included
Qaqun, Ludd, and Ramla. Gaza, which entered a period of
tranquility under the Mamluks, was used by them as an outpost in their
offensives against the Crusaders which ended in 1290. In 1294 an
earthquake devastated Gaza, and five years later the Mongols again
destroyed all that had been restored by the Mamluks. Syrian
geographer al-Dimashqi described Gaza in 1300 as a "city so rich in
trees it looks like a cloth of brocade spread out upon the land."
Under the governorship of Emir Sanjar al-Jawli, Gaza was transformed
into a flourishing city and much of the Mamluk-era architecture dates
back to his reign between 1311–1320 and again in 1342. In
Bubonic Plague spread to the city, killing the majority of
its inhabitants and in 1352, Gaza suffered from a destructive flood,
which was rare in that arid part of Palestine. However, when Arab
traveler and writer
Ibn Battuta visited the city in 1355, he noted
that it was "large and populous, and has many mosques."
The Mamluks contributed to Gazan architecture by building mosques,
Islamic colleges, hospitals, caravansaries, and public baths. They
Jews to return to the city, after being expelled by the
Crusaders, and the Jewish community prospered during Mamluk rule.
Towards the end of the Mamluk period, the Jewish community in Gaza was
the third largest in Palestine, after the communities in
Jerusalem. In 1481, an Italian Jewish traveller
Meshulam of Volterra wrote:
Gazza is called by the Moslems Gaza. It is a fine and renowned place,
and its fruits are very renowned and good.
Bread and good wine is to
be found there, but only
Jews make wine. Gaza has a circumference of
four miles and no walls. It is about six miles from the sea and
situated in a valley and on a hill. It has a population as numerous as
the sands of the sea, and there are about fifty (sixty) Jewish
householders, artisans. They have a small but pretty Synagogue, and
vineyards and fields and houses. They had already begun to make the
new wine. ... The
Jews live at the top of the hill. May God exalt
them. There are also four
Samaritan householders who live on the
Muslims studying the
Qur'an with Gaza in the background, painting by
Painting of Gaza by David Roberts, 1839
In 1516 Gaza—at the time, a small town with an inactive port, ruined
buildings and reduced trade—was incorporated into the Ottoman
Empire. The Ottoman army quickly and efficiently crushed a
small-scale uprising, and the local population generally welcomed
them as fellow Sunni Muslims. The city was then made the capital
of Sanjak Gaza, part of the larger Province of Damascus. The
Ridwan family, named after governor Ridwan Pasha, was the first
dynasty to govern Gaza and would continue to rule the city for over a
century. Under Ahmad ibn Ridwan, the city became a cultural and
religious center as a result of the partnership between the governor
and prominent Islamic jurist Khayr al-Din al-Ramli, who was based in
the nearby town of al-Ramla.
During the rule of Husayn Pasha, strife between the settled population
and the nearby
Bedouin tribes was dramatically reduced, allowing Gaza
to peacefully prosper. The Ridwan period is described as a golden age
for Gaza, a time when it served as the virtual "capital of
Palestine." The Great
Mosque was restored, and six other
mosques constructed, while Turkish baths and market stalls
proliferated. After the death of Musa Pasha, Husayn's successor,
Ottoman officials were appointed to govern in place of the Ridwans.
The Ridwan period was Gaza's last golden age during Ottoman rule.
After the family was removed from office, the city gradually
Starting in the early 19th century, Gaza was culturally dominated by
Muhammad Ali of
Egypt conquered Gaza in 1832.
American scholar Edward Robinson visited the city in 1838, describing
it as a "thickly populated" town larger than Jerusalem, with its Old
City lying upon a hilltop, while its suburbs laid on the nearby
plain. The city benefited from trade and commerce because of its
strategic position on the caravan route between
Egypt and northern
Syria as well as from producing soap and cotton for trade with the
Arab tribes, and the
Wadi Arabah and
Ma'an. The bazaars of Gaza were well-supplied and were noted by
Robinson as "far better" than those of Jerusalem. Robinson noted
that virtually all of Gaza's vestiges of ancient history and antiquity
had disappeared due to constant conflict and occupation. By the
mid-19th century, Gaza's port was eclipsed by the ports of Jaffa and
Haifa, but it retained its fishing fleet.
Bubonic Plague struck Gaza again in 1839 and the city, lacking
political and economic stability, went into a state of stagnation. In
1840 Egyptian and Ottoman troops battled outside of Gaza. The Ottomans
won control of the territory, effectively ending Egyptian rule over
Palestine. However, the battles brought about more death and
destruction in Gaza whilst the city was still recovering from the
effects of the plague.
Gaza after surrender to British forces, 1918
While leading the Allied Forces during World War I, the British won
control of the city during the
Third Battle of Gaza
Third Battle of Gaza in 1917. After
the war, Gaza was included in Mandatory Palestine. In the 1930s
and 1940s, Gaza underwent major expansion. New neighborhoods were
built along the coast and the southern and eastern plains.
International organizations and missionary groups funded most of this
construction. In the 1947
United Nations Partition Plan, Gaza was
assigned to be part of an
Arab state in Palestine but was occupied by
Egypt following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Gaza's growing population
was augmented by an influx of refugees fleeing nearby cities, towns
and villages that were captured by Israel. In 1957, Egyptian president
Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser made a number of reforms in Gaza, which included
expanding educational opportunities and the civil services, providing
housing, and establishing local security forces.
Gaza was occupied by
Israel during the 1967
Six-Day War following the
defeat of the Egyptian Army. Frequent conflicts have erupted between
Palestinians and the Israeli authorities in the city since the 1970s.
The tensions led to the
First Intifada in 1987. Gaza was a center of
confrontation during this uprising, and economic conditions in the
In September 1993, leaders of
Israel and the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO) signed the Oslo Accords. The agreement called for
Palestinian administration of the
Gaza Strip and the
West Bank town of
Jericho, which was implemented in May 1994. Israeli forces withdrew
from Gaza, leaving a new
Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to
administer and police the city. The PNA, led by Yasser Arafat,
chose Gaza as its first provincial headquarters. The newly established
Palestinian National Council held its inaugural session in Gaza in
Residents in a Gaza neighborhood during the 2008–09 Gaza War
Israel withdrew its troops from the
Gaza Strip and removed
the thousands of Israelis who had settled in the territory. See
Israel's unilateral disengagement plan of 2004. Since the Israeli
Hamas has been engaged in a sometimes violent power
struggle with its rival Palestinian organization Fatah. On January 25,
Hamas won a surprise victory in the elections for the
Palestinian Legislative Council, the legislature of the Palestinian
National Authority. In 2007,
Fatah forces in the Gaza
Hamas members were dismissed from the PNA government in the
West Bank in response. Currently, Hamas, recognized as a terror
organization by most western countries, has de facto control of the
city and Strip.
In March 2008, a coalition of human rights groups charged that the
Israeli blockade of the city had caused the humanitarian situation in
Gaza to have reached its worst point since
Israel occupied the
territory in the 1967 Six-Day War, and that Israeli air strikes
targeting militants in the densely populated areas have often killed
bystanders as well. In 2008,
Israel commenced an assault against
Israel stated the strikes were in response to repetitive
rocket and mortar attacks from the
Gaza Strip into
Israel since 2005,
while the Palestinians stated that they were responding to Israel's
military incursions and blockade of the Gaza Strip. In January 2009,
at least 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the conflict.
In November 2012, after a week of conflict between
Palestinian militant groups, a ceasefire brokered by
announced on November 21. UN OCHA says 2,205 Palestinians
(including at least 1,483 civilians) and 71 Israelis (including 66
soldiers) and one foreign national in
Israel were killed in the 2014
Israel–Gaza conflict. According to an analysis by the New York
Times, men ages 20–29, who are most likely to be militants, are most
overrepresented in the death toll.
Beach in Gaza City
Central Gaza is situated on a low-lying and round hill with an
elevation of 14 metres (46 ft) above sea level. Much of the
modern city is built along the plain below the hill, especially to the
north and east, forming Gaza's suburbs. The beach and the port of Gaza
are located 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) west of the city's nucleus and
the space in between is entirely built up on low-lying hills.
The municipal jurisdiction of the city today constitutes about 45
square kilometres (17 sq mi). Gaza is 78 kilometres
(48 mi) southwest of Jerusalem, 71 kilometres (44 mi) south
of Tel Aviv, and 30 kilometres (19 mi) north of Rafah.
Surrounding localities include Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, and Jabalia
to the north, and the village of Abu Middein, the refugee camp of
Bureij, and the city of
Deir al-Balah to the south.
The population of Gaza depends on groundwater as the only source for
drinking, agricultural use, and domestic supply. The nearest stream is
Wadi Ghazza to the south, sourced from
Abu Middein along the
coastline. It bears a small amount of water during the winter and
virtually no water during the summer. Most of its water supply is
diverted into Israel. The Gaza
Aquifer along the coast is the main
aquifer in the
Gaza Strip and it consists mostly of Pleistocene
sandstones. Like most of the Gaza Strip, Gaza is covered by quaternary
soil; clay minerals in the soil absorb many organic and inorganic
chemicals which has partially alleviated the extent of groundwater
A prominent hill southeast of Gaza, known as Tell al-Muntar, has an
elevation of 270 feet (82 m) above sea level. For centuries it
has been claimed as the place to which
Samson brought the city gates
of the Philistines. The hill is crowned by a
Muslim shrine (maqam)
dedicated to Ali al-Muntar ("Ali of the Watchtower"). There are old
Muslim graves around the surrounding trees, and the lintel of the
doorway of the maqam has two medieval Arabic scriptures.
A mosque on the campus of the Islamic University of Gaza
The Old City forms the main part of Gaza's nucleus. It is roughly
divided into two quarters; the northern
Daraj Quarter (also known as
Muslim Quarter) and the southern
Zaytun Quarter (which contained
the Jewish and Christian quarters.) Most structures date from the
Mamluk and Ottoman eras, and some were built on top of earlier
structures. The ancient part of the Old City is about 1.6 square
kilometres (0.62 sq mi).
There are seven historic gates to the Old City: Bab Asqalan (Gate of
Ashkelon), Bab al-Darum (Gate of Deir al-Balah), Bab al-Bahr (Gate of
the Sea), Bab Marnas (Gate of Marnas), Bab al-Baladiyah (Gate of the
Town), Bab al-Khalil (Gate of Hebron), and Bab al-Muntar (Gate of Tell
al-Muntar). Some of the older buildings use the ablaq style of
decoration which features alternating layers of red and white masonry,
prevalent in the Mamluk era. Daraj contains the Gold (Qissariya)
Market as well as the
Great Mosque of Gaza
Great Mosque of Gaza (oldest mosque in Gaza)
and the Sayed al-Hashim Mosque. In Zaytun lies the Saint
Porphryrius Church, the Katib al-Wilaya Mosque, and Hamam as-Sammara
("the Samaritan's Bathhouse.")
Gaza is composed of thirteen districts (hayy) outside of the Old
City. The first extension of Gaza beyond its city center was the
district of Shuja'iyya, built on a hill just east and southeast of the
Old City during the
Ayyubid period. In the northeast is the
Mamluk-era district of Tuffah, which is roughly divided into
eastern and western halves and was originally located within the Old
During the 1930s and 1940s, a new residential district, Rimal
(currently divided into the districts of Northern
Rimal and Southern
Rimal), was constructed on the sand dunes west of the city center,
and the district of Zeitoun was built along Gaza's southern and
southwestern borders, while the Judeide ("the New") and Turukman
Shuja'iyya expanded into separate districts in the
northeast and southeast, respectively. Judeide (also known
Shuja'iyyat al-Akrad) was named after the Kurdish military units who
settled there during the Mamluk era, while Turukman was named after
the Turkmen military units who settled there.
The areas between
Rimal and the Old City became the districts of Sabra
and Daraj. In the northwest is the district of Nasser, built in
the early 1950s and named in honor of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel
Nasser. The district of Sheikh Radwan, developed in the 1970s, is
3 kilometres (1.9 mi) to the north of the Old City and is named
after Sheikh Radwan—the tomb of whom is located within the
district. Gaza has absorbed the village of al-Qubbah near the
border with Israel, as well as the
Palestinian refugee camp
Palestinian refugee camp of
al-Shati along the coast, although the latter is not under the
city's municipal jurisdiction. In the late 1990s, the PNA built the
more affluent neighborhood of
Tel al-Hawa along the southern edge of
Rimal. Along the southern coast of the city is the neighborhood of
Gaza has a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen: BSh), with Mediterranean
characteristics, featuring mild rainy winters and dry hot summers.
Spring arrives around March–April and the hottest months are July
and August, with the average high being 33 °C (91 °F). The
coldest month is January with temperatures usually at 18 °C
(64 °F). Rain is scarce and generally falls between November and
March, with annual precipitation rates approximately at 390
millimetres (15 in).
Climate data for Gaza
Average high °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average relative humidity (%)
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Mean daily sunshine hours
Arab Meteorology Book
According to Ottoman tax records in 1557, Gaza had 2,477 male
taxpayers. The statistics from 1596 show that Gaza's Muslim
population consisted of 456 households, 115 bachelors, 59 religious
persons, and 19 disabled persons. In addition to the
there were 141 jundiyan or "soldiers" in the Ottoman army. Of the
Christians, there were 294 households and seven bachelors, while there
were 73 Jewish households and eight
Samaritan households. In total, an
estimated 6,000 people lived in Gaza, making it the third largest city
in Ottoman Palestine after
Jerusalem and Safad.
In 1838, there were roughly 4,000
Muslim and 100 Christian tax payers,
implying a population of about 15,000 or 16,000—making it larger
Jerusalem at the time. The total number of Christian families was
57. Before the outbreak of World War I, the population of Gaza had
reached 42,000; however, the fierce battles between Allied Forces and
the Ottomans and their German allies in 1917 in Gaza resulted in a
massive population decrease. The following census, which was
conducted in 1922 by the British Mandate authorities shows a sharp
decrease in population which stood at 17,480 residents, consisting of
16,722 Muslims, 54
Jews and 701 Christians.
According to a 1997 census by the Palestinian Central Bureau of
Statistics (PCBS), Gaza and the adjacent al-Shati camp had a
population of 353,115, of which 50.9% were males and 49.1% females.
Gaza had an overwhelmingly young population with more than half being
between the ages of infancy to 19 (60.8%). About 28.8% were between
the ages of 20 to 44, 7.7% between 45 and 64, and 3.9% were over the
age of 64.
A massive influx of Palestinian refugees swelled Gaza's population
after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. By 1967, the population had grown
to about six times its 1948 size. In 1997, 51.8% of Gaza's
inhabitants were refugees or their descendants. The city's
population has continued to increase since that time to 515,556 in
2012, making it the largest city in the Palestinian
Gaza City has one of the highest overall growth
rates in the world. Its population density is 9,982.69/km²
(26,424.76/sq mi) comparable to New York City (10,725.4/km² –
27,778.7/sq mi), half of Paris density (21,000/km² – 55,000/sq
mi). In 2007 poverty, unemployment and poor living conditions
were widespread and many residents received
United Nations food
Men from Gaza, 19th century
The population of Gaza is overwhelmingly composed of Muslims, who
mostly follow Sunni Islam. During the Fatimid period, Shia Islam
was dominant in Gaza, but after
Saladin conquered the city in 1187, he
promoted a strictly Sunni religious and educational policy, which at
the time was instrumental in uniting his
Arab and Turkish
Gaza is home to a small Palestinian Christian minority of about 3,500
people. The majority live in the
Zaytun Quarter of the Old City
and belong to the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Baptist
denominations. In 1906 there were about 750 Christians, of which
700 were Orthodox and 50 were Roman Catholic.
Gaza's Jewish community was roughly 3,000 years old, and in 1481
there were sixty Jewish households. Most of them fled from Gaza
after the 1929 Palestine riots, when they consisted of fifty
families. In Sami Hadawi's land and population survey, Gaza had a
population of 34,250, including 80
Jews in 1945. Most of them left
the city after the 1948 War, due to mutual distrust between them and
Arab majority. Today, there are no
Jews living in Gaza.
Main article: Economy of Gaza
Gazan wool carpet
Gaza park, 2012
The major agricultural products are strawberries, citrus, dates,
olives, flowers, and various vegetables. Pollution and high demand for
water have reduced the productive capacity of farms in the Gaza
Strip. Small-scale industries include the production of plastics,
construction materials, textiles, furniture, pottery, tiles,
copperware, and carpets. Since the Oslo Accords, thousands of
residents have been employed in government ministries and security
UNRWA and international organizations. Minor industries
include textiles and food processing. A variety of wares are sold in
Gaza's street bazaars, including carpets, pottery, wicker furniture,
and cotton clothing. The upscale
Gaza Mall opened in July
Many Gazans worked in the Israeli service industry when the border was
open, but after Israel's 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip, this
source of jobs disappeared.
A report by human rights and development groups published in 2008
stated that Gaza had suffered a long term pattern of economic
stagnation and dire development indicators, the severity which was
increased exponentially by the Israeli and Egyptian blockades. The
report cited a number of economic indicators to illustrate the point:
In 2008, 95% of Gaza's industrial operations were suspended due to
lack of access inputs for production and export problems. In 2009,
unemployment in Gaza was close to 40%. The private sector which
generates 53% of all jobs in Gaza was devastated and businesses went
bankrupt. In June 2005, 3,900 factories in Gaza employed 35,000
people, by December 2007, only 1,700 were still employed. The
construction industry was paralyzed with tens of thousands of laborers
out of work. The agriculture sector was hard hit, affecting nearly
40,000 workers dependent on cash crops.
Gaza's food prices rose during the blockade, with wheat flour going up
34%, rice up 21%, and baby powder up 30%. In 2007, households spent an
average of 62% of their total income on food, compared to 37% in 2004.
In less than a decade, the number of families depending on
aid increased tenfold. In 2008, 80% of the population relied on
humanitarian aid in 2008 compared to 63% in 2006. According to a
OXFAM in 2009, Gaza suffered from a serious shortage of
housing, educational facilities, health facilities and infrastructure,
along with an inadequate sewage system that contributed to hygiene and
public health problems.
Following a significant easing of the closure policy in 2010, the
economy of Gaza began to see a substantial recovery from anemic levels
during the height of the blockade. The economy of Gaza grew by 8%
in the first 11 months of 2010. Economic activity is largely
supported by foreign aid donations. There are a number of hotels
in Gaza, including the Palestine, Grand Palace, Adam, al-Amal,
al-Quds, Cliff, al-Deira and Marna House. All, except the Palestine
Hotel, are located along in the coastal
Rimal district. The United
Nations (UN) has a beach club on the same street. Gaza is not a
frequent destination for tourists, and most foreigners who stay in
hotels are journalists, aid workers, UN and
Red Cross personnel.
Upmarket hotels include the al-Quds and the al-Deira Hotel.
In 2012, unemployment dropped to 25 percent.
In November 2012, a report by the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce
called for the
Gaza Strip to be recognized as an economic disaster
area after it concluded that the Israeli Operation Pillar of Defense
caused approximately $300 million in economic damage.
Cultural centers and museums
Nehru Library and Cultural Center at Gaza's Al-Azhar University
The Rashad Shawa Cultural Center, located in Rimal, was completed in
1988 and named after its founder, former mayor Rashad al-Shawa. A
two-story building with a triangular plan, the cultural centers
performs three main functions: a meeting place for large gatherings
during annual festivals, a place to stage exhibitions, and a
library. The French Cultural Center is a symbol of French
partnership and cooperation in Gaza. It holds art exhibits, concerts,
film screenings, and other activities. Whenever possible, French
artists are invited to display their artwork, and more frequently,
Palestinian artists from the
Gaza Strip and the
West Bank are invited
to participate in art competitions.
Established in 1998, the Arts and Crafts Village is a children's
cultural center with the objectives of promoting comprehensive,
regular and periodic documentation of creative art in all of its
forms. It interacted on a large scale with a class of artists from
different nationalities and organized around 100 exhibitions for
creative art, ceramics, graphics, carvings and others. Nearly 10,000
children from throughout the
Gaza Strip have benefited from the Arts
and Crafts Village.
The Gaza Theater, financed by contributions from Norway, opened in
2004. The theater does not receive much funding from the PNA,
depending mostly on donations from foreign aid agencies. The Qattan
Foundation, a Palestinian arts charity, runs several workshops in Gaza
to develop young artistic talent and impart drama skills to teachers.
The Gaza Theater Festival was inaugurated in 2005.
The Gaza Museum of Archaeology, founded by Jawdat N. Khoudary, opened
in the summer of 2008. The museum collection features thousands of
items, including a statue of a full-breasted
Aphrodite in a diaphanous
gown, images of other ancient deities and oil lamps featuring
Main article: Palestinian cuisine § Gaza
Gaza's cuisine is characterized by its generous use of spices and
chillies. Other major flavors and ingredients include dill, chard,
garlic, cumin, lentils, chickpeas, pomegranates, sour plums and
tamarind. Many of the traditional dishes rely on clay pot cooking,
which preserves the flavor and texture of the vegetables and results
in fork-tender meat. Traditionally, most Gazan dishes are seasonal and
rely on ingredients indigenous to the area and its surrounding
villages. Poverty has also played an important role in determining
many of the city's simple meatless dishes and stews, such as saliq wa
adas ("chard and lentils") and bisara (skinless fava beans mashed with
dried mulukhiya leaves and chilies).
Seafood is a key aspect of Gaza life and a local staple, Some
well-known seafood dishes include zibdiyit gambari, literally,
"shrimps in a clay pot", and shatta which are crabs stuffed with red
hot chili pepper dip, then baked in the oven. Fish is either fried or
grilled after being stuffed with cilantro, garlic, chillies and cumin,
and marinated with various spices. It is also a key ingredient in
sayyadiya, rice cooked with caramelized onions, a generous amount of
whole garlic cloves, large chunks of well-marinated fried fish, and
spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin. Many of the
1948-era refugees were fellahin ("peasants") who ate seasonal foods.
Sumaghiyyeh, popular in Gaza not just on Ramadan but all year round,
is a mixture of sumac, tahina and water combined with chard, chunks of
beef and chickpeas. The dish is topped with crushed dill seeds,
chillies and fried garlic and served in bowls. Maftool is a
wheat-based dish flavored with dried sour plums that is served like
couscous or shaped into little balls and steamed over stew or
Most Gaza restaurants are located in the
Rimal district. Al-Andalus,
which specializes in fish and seafood, is popular with tourists, as
are al-Sammak and the upscale Roots Club. Atfaluna is a stylish
restaurant near Gaza port run and staffed by deaf people with the goal
of building a society that is more accepting of people with
Throughout the Old City there are street stalls that sell cooked
beans, hummus, roasted sweet potatoes, falafel, and kebabs.
Coffeehouses (qahwa) serve
Arabic coffee and tea. Gaza's well-known
sweet shops, Saqqala and Arafat, sell common
Arab sweet products and
are located off Wehda Street.
Alcohol is a rarity, found only in the
United Nations Beach Club.
Costumes and embroidery
See also: Palestinian costumes
Gauze is reputed to have originated in Gaza. Cloth for the Gaza thob
was often woven at nearby Majdal (Ascalon). Black or blue cottons or
striped pink and green fabric that had been made in Majdal continued
to be woven throughout the
Gaza Strip by refugees from the coastal
plain villages until the 1960s. Thobs here had narrow, tight, straight
sleeves. Embroidery was much less dense than that applied in Hebron.
The most popular motifs included: scissors (muqass), combs (mushut)
and triangles (hijab) often arranged in clusters of fives, sevens and
threes, as the use of odd numbers is considered in
Arab folklore to be
effective against the evil eye.
In recent decades,
Hamas and other Islamic movements sought to
increase the use of the hijab ("headscarf") among Gazan women,
especially urban and educated women, and the hijab styles since
introduced have varied according to class and group identity.
Palestine Stadium, the Palestinian national stadium, is located in
Gaza and has a capacity for 10,000 people. It serves as the home of
the Palestine national football team, but home games have been played
in Doha, Qatar. Gaza has several local football teams that
participate in the
Gaza Strip League. They include Khidmat al-Shatia
(al-Shati Camp), Ittihad al-
Shuja'iyya neighborhood), Gaza
Sports Club, and al-Zeitoun (Zeitoun neighborhood).
Said al-Shawa, the first mayor of Gaza
Palestinian Legislative Council
Palestinian Legislative Council and Politics of the
Palestinian National Authority
Today, Gaza serves as the administrative capital of the Gaza
Governorate. It contains the Palestinian Legislative Council
building, as well as the headquarters of most of the Palestinian
The first municipal council of Gaza was formed in 1893 under the
chairmanship of Ali Khalil Shawa. Modern mayorship, however, began in
1906 with his son Said al-Shawa, who was appointed mayor by the
Ottoman authorities. Al-Shawa oversaw the construction of Gaza's
first hospital, several new mosques and schools, the restoration of
the Great Mosque, and the introduction of the modern plow to the
city. In 1922, British colonial secretary Winston Churchill
requested that Gaza develop its own constitution under Mandatory
Palestine. However, it was rejected by the Palestinians.
On July 24, 1994, the PNA proclaimed Gaza the first city council in
the Palestinian territories. The 2005 Palestinian municipal
elections were not held in Gaza, nor in
Khan Yunis or Rafah. Instead,
Fatah party officials selected the smaller cities, towns, and villages
to hold elections, assuming they would fare better in less urban
areas. The rival
Hamas party, however, won the majority of seats in
seven of the ten municipalities selected for the first round with
voter turnout being around 80%. 2007 saw violent clashes between
the two parties that left over 100 dead, ultimately resulting in Hamas
taking over the city.
Normally, Palestinian municipalities with populations over 20,000 and
that serve as administrative centers have municipal councils
consisting of fifteen members, including the mayor. The current
municipal council of Gaza, however, consists of fourteen members,
including the mayor, Rafiq Makki. Makki resigned in November
2013, but was kept on as interim mayor until April 2014. He was
replaced by deputy mayor Nizar Hijazi.
Schoolgirls in Gaza lining up for class, 2009
The main conference hall of the Islamic University of Gaza
According to the PCBS, in 1997, approximately over 90% of Gaza's
population over the age of 10 was literate. Of the city's population,
140,848 were enrolled in schools (39.8% in elementary school, 33.8% in
secondary school, and 26.4% in high school). About 11,134 people
received bachelor diplomas or higher diplomas.
In 2006, there were 210 schools in Gaza; 151 were run by the Education
Ministry of the Palestinian National Authority, 46 were run by the
United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and 13 were private schools. A
total of 154,251 students were enrolled and 5,877 teachers were
employed. The currently downtrodden economy has affected
education in the
Gaza Strip severely. In September 2007, a UNRWA
survey in the
Gaza Strip revealed that there was a nearly 80% failure
rate in schools grades four to nine, with up to 90% failure rates in
mathematics. In January 2008, the
United Nations Children's Fund
reported that schools in Gaza had been canceling classes that were
high on energy consumption, such as information technology, science
labs and extra curricular activities.
Gaza has many universities. The four main universities in the city are
al-Azhar University – Gaza, al-Quds Open University, al-Aqsa
University and the Islamic University of Gaza. The Islamic University,
consisting of ten facilities, was founded by a group of businessmen in
1978, making it the first University in Gaza. It had an enrollment of
20,639 students. Al-Azhar is generally secular and was founded in
Al-Aqsa University was established in 1991. Al-Quds Open
University established its Gaza Educational Region campus in 1992 in a
rented building in the center of the city originally with 730
students. Because of the rapid increase of the number of students, it
constructed the first university owned building in the Nasser
District. In 2006–07, it had an enrollment of 3,778 students.
The Public Library of Gaza is located off
Wehda Street and has a
collection of nearly 10,000 books in Arabic, English and French. A
total area of about 1,410 square metres (15,200 sq ft), the
building consists of two floors and a basement. The library was opened
in 1999 after cooperation dating from 1996 by Gaza under mayor Aoun
Shawa, the municipality of Dunkerque, and the World Bank. The
library's primary objectives are to provide sources of information
that meets the needs of beneficiaries, provide necessary facilities
for access to available information sources, and organizing various
cultural programs such as, cultural events, seminars, lectures, film
presentations, videos, art and book exhibitions.
World War I Cemetery in Gaza
Landmarks in Gaza include the Great
Mosque in the Old City. Originally
a pagan temple, it was consecrated a Greek Orthodox church by the
Byzantines, then a mosque in the 8th century by the Arabs. The
Crusaders transformed it into a church, but it was reestablished as a
mosque soon after Gaza's reconquest by the Muslims. It is the
oldest and largest in the Gaza Strip.
Other mosques in the Old City include the Mamluk-era Sayed Hashem
Mosque that believed to house the tomb of Hashem ibn Abd al-Manaf in
its dome. There is also the nearby Kateb al-Welaya
dates back to 1334. In
Shuja'iyya is the Ibn Uthman Mosque, which was
Nablus native Ahmad ibn Uthman in 1402, and the Mahkamah
Mosque built by Mamluk majordomo Birdibak al-Ashrafi in 1455. In
Tuffah is the Ibn Marwan Mosque, which was built in 1324 and
houses the tomb of Ali ibn Marwan, a holy man.
The Unknown Soldier's Square, located in Rimal, is a monument
dedicated to an unknown Palestinian fighter who died in the 1948 War.
In 1967, the monument was torn down by Israeli forces and remained a
patch of sand, until a public garden was built there with funding
from Norway. Qasr al-Basha, originally a Mamluk-era villa that was
used by Napoleon during his brief sojourn in Gaza, is located in the
Old City and is today a girls' school. The Commonwealth Gaza War
Cemetery, often referred to as the British War Cemetery, that contains
the graves of fallen Allied soldiers in World War I is 1.5 km
(1 mi) northeast of the city center in the
Tuffah district near
Salah al-Din Road.
See also: Water supply and sanitation in the Palestinian territories
Water supply and sanitation
According to the 1997 census by the Palestinian Central Bureau of
Statistics, 98.1% of Gaza's residents were connected to the public
water supply while the remainder used a private system. About
87.6% were connected to a public sewage system and 11.8% used a
cesspit. The blockade on Gaza severely restricted the city's
water supply. The six main wells for drinking water did not function,
and roughly 50% of the population had no water on a regular basis. The
municipality claimed it was forced to pump water through "salty wells"
because of the unavailability of electricity. About 20 million liters
of raw sewage and 40 million liters of partially treated water per day
flowed into the Mediterranean Sea, and untreated sewage bred insects
and mice. As a "water-poor" country, Gaza is highly dependent on
Wadi Ghazza. The Gaza
Aquifer is used as Gaza's main
resource for obtaining quality water. However, the majority of water
Wadi Ghazza is transported to Jerusalem.
In 2002 Gaza began operating its own power plant which was built by
Enron. However, the power plant was bombed and destroyed by the
Israeli Defense Forces
Israeli Defense Forces in 2006. Prior to power plant's destruction
Israel provided additional electricity to Gaza through the Israel
Electric Corporation. The plant was rebuilt by December 2007. In
Jerusalem, electricity continued to be sold to Gaza according to news
Egypt is in talks to combine Gaza's energy
grid with its own.
Solid waste management
Solid waste management is one of key compelling issues facing Gazans
today. These challenges are attributed to several factors; the lack of
investment in environmental systems, less attention was given to
environmental projects, and the absence of law enforcement and the
tendency towards crisis management. One of the main aspects of this
problem is the huge quantities of rubble and debris generated as a
result of Israeli bombardments.
For instance, The scale of damage resulting from the Operation
Protective Edge is unprecedented. All governorates in the Gaza Strip
witnessed extensive aerial bombardment, naval shelling and artillery
fire, resulting in a considerable amount of rubble. According to
recent statistics, more than 2 million tonnes of debris was generated.
Approximately 10000 houses were leveled to the ground including two
13-story residential buildings. A tremendous amount of debris remains
scattered in Gaza. Serious efforts and a high budget are required to
handle this challenge. More importantly, and based on a UNEP study
after the 2008 war, the debris is highly likely to be contaminated
with PAHs and probably with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins,
and furan compounds.
Al-Quds hospital, Gaza City, following Israeli shelling
Al-Shifa Hospital ("the Cure") was founded in the
Rimal District by
the British Mandate government in the 1940s. Housed in an army
barracks, it originally provided quarantine and treatment for febrile
Egypt administered Gaza, this original department was
relocated and al-Shifa became the city's central hospital. When
Israel withdrew from the
Gaza Strip after occupying it in the 1956
Suez Crisis, Egyptian president
Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser had al-Shifa
hospital expanded and improved. He also ordered the establishment of a
second hospital in the Nasser District with the same name. In 1957,
the quarantine and febrile disease hospital was rebuilt and named
Nasser Hospital. Today, al-Shifa remains Gaza's largest medical
Throughout the late 1950s, a new health administration, Bandar Gaza
("Gaza Region"), was established and headed by Haidar Abdel-Shafi.
Bandar Gaza rented several rooms throughout the city to set up
government clinics that provided essential curative care.
Arab Hospital, founded in 1907 by the Church Missionary
Society (CMS), was destroyed in World War I. It was rebuilt as
the Southern Baptist Hospital in the 1950s. In 1982, the
Episcopal Diocese of
Jerusalem took leadership and the original name
was restored. Al-Quds Hospital, located in the Tel al-Hawa
neighborhood and managed by the Palestine Red Crescent Society, is the
second largest hospital in Gaza.
In 2007, hospitals experienced power cuts lasting for 8–12 hours
daily and diesel required for power generators was in short supply.
According to the
World Health Organisation
World Health Organisation (WHO), the proportion of
patients given permits to exit Gaza for medical care decreased from
89.3% in January 2007 to 64.3% in December 2007.
In 2010, a team of doctors from Al-Durrah Hospital in Gaza spent a
year of training at the cystic fibrosis clinic at Hadassah Medical
Center in Jerusalem. Upon their return to Gaza, a cystic fibrosis
center was established at Al-Durrah, although the most serious cases
are referred to Hadassah.
Yasser Arafat International Airport in the southern Gaza
The Rasheed Coastal Road runs along Gaza's coastline and connects it
with the rest of Gaza Strip's coastline north and south. The main
highway of the Gaza Strip,
Salah al-Din Road
Salah al-Din Road (the modern Via Maris)
runs through the middle of Gaza City, connecting it with Deir
al-Balah, Khan Yunis, and
Rafah in the south and
Jabalia and Beit
Hanoun in the north. The northern crossing of Salah ad-Din Street
Israel is the
Erez Crossing and the crossing into
Egypt is the
Omar Mukhtar Street is the main road in the city of Gaza running
north-south, branching off Salah ad-Din Street, stretching from the
Rimal coastline and the Old City where it ends at the Gold Market.
Prior to the Blockade of the Gaza Strip, there existed regular lines
of collective taxis to
Hebron in the West Bank.
Except for private cars,
Gaza City is served by taxis and buses.
Yasser Arafat International Airport near
Rafah opened in 1998 40
kilometres (25 mi) south of Gaza. Its runways and facilities were
damaged by the
Israeli Defense Forces
Israeli Defense Forces in 2001 and 2002, rendering the
airport unusable. In August 2010, the tarmac ramp was destroyed by
Palestinians seeking stones and recycled building materials. The
Ben Gurion International Airport
Ben Gurion International Airport in
Israel is located roughly 75
kilometres (47 mi) northeast of the city.
See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in the Palestinian
Twin towns and sister cities
Gaza is twinned with:
Middle East portal
Governance of the Gaza Strip
International recognition of the State of Palestine
List of cities administered by the Palestinian Authority
List of rulers of Gaza
Palestinian Declaration of Independence
Palestinian National Security Forces
State of Palestine
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*From June 2007, the
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